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Net Neutrality

December 3, 2017

Recently, we’ve seen a change in US FCC policy intended to reverse the Obama-era ruling on net neutrality.  The original ruling had prevented Internet backbone companies from restricting bandwidth by services.  The proposed change is called Internet Freedom.  This name reminds me of doublethink in George Orwells‘ book 1984.  Its freedom for corporations, but not for individuals.  In fact, it’s simply deregulation with another name.

The intent of this change is to permit Internet companies to adjust bandwidth according to service.  The risk is that they may favour the services that they own, or may make independant services pay extra for bandwidth on their Internet backbones.

As I said, this change amounts to deregulation.  Wasn’t it deregulation of the banks that caused the 2008 recession?  Regulation is a legitimate function of government.  It’s not just needless red tape:  it’s there for a good reason.  Regulation is a way for governments to protect consumers.

Of course, the need for regulation depends on the amount of competition within an industry.  Good competition benefits consumers by maintaining lower prices.  Good competition also produces a hostile environment for companies, with tiny profit margins and the constant possibility of bankrupcy.

That’s why companies strive to eliminage competition by a variety of means.  They buy up other companies.  They drive others out of business.  They seek protection or subsidies from governments.  This move towards monopoly benefits companies and company owners, even as it deprives consumers of the benefits of competition.

Who is left to protect the consumer?  Only government is left.  They can prevent business activity that restricts competition.  If there are only a few large companies left in an industry, government can impose regulations on all of them.  That’s the reason that net neutrality must be maintained, so that all services can thrive, and so that consumers can choose fairly among services that are available on the Internet.

 

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