Opinion

The Great Debate

Net neutrality: A web of deceit

Wheeler testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing on oversight of the FCC on Capitol Hill in Washington

Special-interest groups are calling for public-utility regulations to be placed on the Internet — the most innovative and society-shaping deregulatory success story of our time. These people are trying to exert control over the Internet through “net neutrality” regulations that will likely benefit only a few huge Internet companies and the top 1 percent of Internet users.

Net neutrality was developed to ensure that Internet users had the freedom to view all the legal content they wanted. Recently, however, there has been a shift in focus:  Some of the largest Internet companies are citing “net neutrality” as a reason to enshrine specific privileges that largely benefit them.

If these content companies get their way — and the Federal Communications Commission is now deliberating this — Americans will be forced to shoulder the costs for the high-speed networks and infrastructure upgrades needed to support high-volume Internet traffic generators, such as Netflix.

The Netflix logo is is shown on an ipad in Encinitas, CaliforniaWhether they use those services or not.

The math is simple. As a network carries more traffic, it has to grow or it will become congested. To expand a network requires significant investment and expense — tens of billions of dollars a year in the case of Internet service providers (ISPs).

These costs can be recovered in two ways: Either by charging all consumers equally or by having the large companies that use far more of the network resources pay their fair share.

Theodore Roosevelt on net neutrality

tr & crowd

“Above all else,” President Theodore Roosevelt admonished Congress in 1905, “we must strive to keep the highways of commerce open to all on equal terms.”

Roosevelt could not have imagined digital computers and fiber-optic cables. He was talking about railroads, the highways of commerce in his day.

But though the technology has changed, the principle TR expressed remains as essential as it was a century ago. We ignore it at our peril.

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