Tomorrow we are slated to lose the Open Internet Order's Net Neutrality protections. Even still, at rapid clip, free marketeers sporting rose-tinted hindsight glasses and worshipping at the altar of imagined competition pump out anti-Net Neutrality articles. Examples can be found here, here, and here. Ken Englehart, in his New York Times op-ed, at least acknolwedges some sense of Net Neutrality history then quickly obscures it behind a parade of eye-roll inducing free market logic.
Many of these arguments cite the free market and that we already have regulations on the books to enforce this. They maintain that before 2015 the internet was all cat videos. That is empathically not the case.
Ajit Pai and others argue that this will allow more competition. There wasn't competition before the Open Internet Order, a fact that probably prompted over a decade of lawsuits. The fact is that more than 129 million Americans have only a single broadband provider. The 48 million Americans with access to two broadband providers have to choose between companies that have violated Net Neutrality in the past.
Taking away regulations in an era of virtually zero competition won't bring new, local ISPs to the market. These neo-classically minded writers universally fail to account for the fact that — even without regulation — it's not free to start a business. The capital required to hire employees, build out an infrastructure, maintain the infrastructure, monitor network outages, and have people manage biling and payroll costs money, all before a penny is collected from the first customers.
As Nilay Patel of the Vergecast points out on their net neutrality Thanksgiving podcast, when there is competition customers get Net Neutrality and when there isn't competition customers want Net Neutrality. The telecoms want neither and the overall lack of competition ensures that they'll get what they want.
Even in their Randian fantasy world where middle class small business owners are flush with investors, rural populations are unlikely to be serviced. As I've written about previously, rural communities and some folks in Brooklyn have taken things into their own hands. I maintain the rest of us do the same.
The options for regulating telecoms through anti-trust are slim. Consumers can't band together in a mass tort lawsuit and must sue companies through forced arbitration. If the FTC fails to revive it's Unlimited Data lawsuit against AT&T, there will be virtually no effective way to hold these companies accountable. The Open Internet Order is the best consumer protection to date.
Furthermore, this entire process has been rife with disenfranchisement. If you, in good faith, believe that Net Neutrality is bad for consumers, then debate those opinions in the open. Encourage Ajit Pai to delay the vote, hold public hearings, and attempt to sell it to the networks and podcasts that aren't guaranteed to agree with him.
The botnets, unwillingness to investiage the comments of dead New Yorkers, sending 50,000 complaints down a memory hole, and a lack of public hearing make it clear that this debate isn't a good faith debate, it's the Klept's continued pilfering of the people.
Net Neutrality is one of the most popular bi-partisan polices that over 70 percent of Americans support. Most companies — that aren't internet service providers — support Net Neutrality. Why would an agency that has historically focused its efforts on the public good repeal an overwhelmingly popular policy? We know the answer: corporate lobbying coupled with the fact that Ajit Pai's conception of the internet is Verizon's network.
When the vote happens tomorrow. We'll let the courts battle it out and hope that they lay waste to Pai's legacy as quickly as he sought to destroy the internet. While that happens we should get to decentralizing the web, building out our own infrastructure locally, and working to overturn laws that prevent us from doing so.
See you on the other side.
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