Net neutrality isn't the angel it's made out to be

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.


If I asked you if you believed everyone should have equal access to water, electricity, and heat, you’d likely agree and say that this was a good idea. These are all essential components that we need to lead a healthy and fulfilling life, and as such, they’ve been deemed utilities by our government. Our world is one that’s becoming more and more Internet-dependent with each day that passes, and as such, you can easily make the argument that it falls into those same lines as water, electricity, and heat. This is something that the Federal Communications Commission agreed upon in 2015 when it officially ruled broadband Internet service as a utility in the United States, and this ruling was met with great applause and joy. With this ruling, Internet service providers (ISPs) cannot block or limit peoples’ access to online content and must maintain an equal playing field for all.


This is the essential idea of what net neutrality is all about - providing everyone with the same, equal access to the entirety of the World Wide Web. Net neutrality is a newfangled subject considering the relative young age of the Internet as a whole, but it’s become an area for intense debate over the past decade. One of the first violations against net neutrality came up in 2007 when it was discovered that Comcast was blocking its subscribers from sharing digital copies of the King James Bible. 



Five years later in 2012, Comcast was outed once more by Netflix for slowing down its customers' Internet speeds while trying to access online video services (such as Netflix, Hulu, etc.) rather than watching similar content on Comcast’s own Xfinity TV service. These acts, while not limited to just Comcast, are two of the main points of argument that people for net neutrality often like to make. These instances create for clear validity as to why certain regulations on the Internet need to be in place, but as a whole, net neutrality is not perfect. It works in a number of areas, but there are certain aspects of it that are broken and don’t benefit the consumer at all.


One of the main arguments that I like to bring up is that of T-Mobile. Back in June 2014 as part of its Un-Carrier movement, T-Mobile announced its “Music Freedom” feature. Music Freedom essentially allowed T-Mobile customers to stream an unlimited amount of music that didn’t count towards their data limits, but only when listening to certain services that T-Mobile had partnered with. While you could stream an unlimited amount of music from a service such as Spotify, streaming from an unknown and smaller site would count towards your data limit for the month. 



Following this up in November, 2015 was “Binge On.” Binge On functions in the same general manner as Music Freedom, but with music streaming being switched out for video streaming. T-Moible partnered with a number of streaming providers (e.g. Hulu, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Now, etc.) in order to provide its customers with unlimited streaming of this content. However, the catch to this feature is that video playback is downgraded and throttled to just 480p Standard Definition (soon to be upgraded to 720p High Definition). Just what does that mean though? On a carrier such as AT&T, you can stream your videos in 480p, 720p, 1080p, 1440p, etc. You can decide to stream 4K video content via your data connection if you so choose, but this will also eat away at your data bucket in a second. 



With T-Mobile, all video streams through the providers the carrier is partnered with are down-sampled to a lower quality so that you can stream an unlimited amount of it. Here’s where things get dicey for some people though. In order to unlimitedly stream video content at the highest quality possible, consumers need to pay an additional $15/month. A lot of pro-net neutrality individuals will make the case that you should have the right to stream at whatever resolution you’d like even if it means eating through your data count for the month, but in the eyes of most consumers, I firmly believe that they’d rather be able to stream as much video as they’d like at a slightly lower quality. This activity that T-Mobile is conducting isn’t illegal, but it does go against the whole argument for net neutrality. T-Mobile charges customers an additional fee in order to access a higher-quality version of video content, but in return, the carrier can offer all of its customers with the ability to stream as much video as they’d like at a good resolution.


That’s how an anti-net neutrality movement can benefit the consumer, but what about how this idea of an equal Internet can directly hurt us? For starters, net neutrality means that the government has access to restrict content as they see fit. Obviously there are certain regulations in place so that this can’t happen just will-nilly, but a government-regulated Internet means that the folks in DC do have that power to call the shots if they see fit.



Net neutrality is all for more government control and regulation, but why now? Why do we need it? The Internet has been without government influence for the vast majority of its lifespan, and operating as part of a free market will allow for more competition and growth. However, once something is considered a government utility, this growth is halted immediately. The Internet is still a young entity in the grand scheme of things, and that means that there’s plenty of room left to expand and develop. This cannot happen under government influence, and this results in consumers losing out in the long haul.



I’m more than aware that this opinion on the subject of net neutrality is vastly unpopular, and that’s okay. As I previously mentioned, there are specific areas of net neutrality that do work and help keep people safe and protected. Be that as it may, there comes a point where it goes from being safe to overly protected. A pro-net neutrality chairman within the FCC would have allowed for this to continue to happen, but that’s no longer the case with Ajit Pai now heading up the Federal Communications Commission. 


Pai is famously against neutrality, and it’ll be incredibly interesting to see how his position within the FCC plays out. The Obama Administration was in favor of more government control over the Internet as a utility, but it’s likely we’ll see a complete one eighty on those actions with Pai now behind the driver’s seat. 


A lot of people in favor of net neutrality have actively voiced their distaste for President Trump’s choice of Pai as the new chairman, but if you’re someone who identifies themselves as being somewhere in the middle of this argument or haven’t given it much thought in the past, I encourage you to actively think about the points that have been made here.


I’m not saying that we should call for a complete and total abolishment of net neutrality, but there are copious aspects of it that need to be taken back to the drawing board. Net neutrality isn’t the angel that it’s made out to be, and it’ll be quite exciting to see what the future holds for it going forward.


This isn't a conversation that ends with just my voice though. Net neutrality is something that will continue to be debated for the years to come, and as such, it's important to talk about such topics. Cast your vote on the subject in the poll below, and feel free to continue to discussion in the comments section below. 


Where do you stand on the issue of net neutrality?

Net neutrality is something that needs to be in place so that everyone can have the same access to the Internet
51.9%
There are some aspects of net neutrality that work, but it isn't the end-all-be-all; there are changes that should be made
25.04%
The whole idea of net neutrality simply does not work. It may sound good in theory, but it's a broken ideology
16.74%
I don't have an opinion on the matter either way
6.33%

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50 Comments

1. k9luvr

Posts: 122; Member since: Oct 17, 2016

Any time money is involved you need regulation. You just can't trust businesses to do the right thing. (BTW, I'm a business owner) They will always do whatever is best for their bottom line. As for net neutrality, I see both sides of the issue. Regulation needs to be there but I think it will need to be tweaked as time goes on to address new issues. Net neutrality is like Obamacare. It is needed but could be better.

4. FlySheikh

Posts: 444; Member since: Oct 02, 2015

This.

19. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Not only that, but the fact that certain "providers" are leveraging their pre-constructed monopolies outside the internet to try to control and monetize the internet further is the main problem. Comcast has actively throttled Netflix in the past until they negotiated some agreement with them, which almost certainly included Netflix paying Comcast one way or another. https://consumerist.com/2014/02/23/netflix-agrees-to-pay-comcast-to-end-slowdown/ This kind of coercion could shut down smaller providers and upstarts before they can even do anything about it. To stop this, one has to blindly treat all data the same otherwise every bit on the internet can be used for a shake down at the behest of the internet providers like Comcast that have developed a monopoly through bribery and collusion.

22. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Problem seems to be, at least in US, there's that image of freedom and thus some think you are restricting companies freedom. Yet those companies are eagerly restricting others freedom, hindering users from getting proper quality, yet that's no problem?

33. vincelongman

Posts: 5753; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Basically the US telco's have been spread fake news / false info (like this wrong article) Which has lead to that misconception of net neutrality Music Freedom/Binge On don't break net neutrality, as: 1. you can opt out 2. music/video service can partner with Music Freedom/Binge On for free (as far as we know) Net neutrality doesn't give the FTC/government any more control on the internet than they already have It just allows the FTC to stop the carriers from controlling internet (which is one of the purposes of the FTC) I've yet to see a legitimate negative of net neutrality in first world countries The only legitimate one I've seen is that the debate around Facebook's Internet.org Internet.org breaks net neutrality But Internet.org provide internet access to users otherwise can't afford internet access

35. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

If the businesses are behind trying to crush Net neutrality you would know that they would eventually want to up their profit using the world most powerful network infrastructure as leverage. All businesses that do business on the internet would be expected to pay more, direct internet subscription customer expected to pay more for premium sites. All Businesses would this cost plus their own mark up to their customer either directly or indirectly thru product or services. Internet utilities companies profit would skyrocket leaving the people at the end of the food chain to pick up their massive crashing bill.

52. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

just fyi, as infrastructures go, US is not top in anything but size, quality and such isn't really where it tops out. And that, is because of how companies have made deals with eachother limiting customers, avoiding competition e.t.c.

49. markablejones

Posts: 8; Member since: Feb 17, 2017

They aren't just restricting freedom, they are using the gov to restrict capitalism. If companies like Facebook can contract with ISPs to be preferred social media outlets, the the barrier to entry for the next facebook will be so high that it never gets funding to launch.

12. Acdc1a

Posts: 477; Member since: Jan 21, 2016

As long as all data is treated the same I don't mind say video being streamed at one speed while webpages and downloads are given another speed. That's why I'm in the tweaked category.

26. tedkord

Posts: 17465; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

You just defined data not being treated equally.

31. Alter

Posts: 232; Member since: Mar 25, 2016

Voted tweaked as well. The internet should be free and open for us so I like the idea of net neutrality. Internet service providers should not be able to discriminate against what individuals can access. Of course net neutrality is imperfect like everything.

50. markablejones

Posts: 8; Member since: Feb 17, 2017

Title II regulation of the internet is pretty perfect in my opinion. ISPs are not newspaper editors; they are delivery boys. Do you think your power company should be able to decide what appliances you can buy? Why would you want your ISP to be able to decide what websites you can and can't visit?

18. QWIKSTRIKE

Posts: 1461; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

I agree since higher rates give me better quali shows that it is all about more profit....

24. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Exactly and to the point!!!! +1000 for you Sir!

2. joeytaylor

Posts: 957; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

I think it's more complicated than both side want to admit......I do not like the idea of the government in control cause they can block it and shut it down as they see fit....there may be things in place now to prevent that but who says in the future things could be changed.....I think if people have more than one choice in the provider then there shouldn't be much control in it

28. TerryTerius unregistered

Honest question, do you truly believe that the free-market left to its own devices would correct for abuses? Part of the reason we have less competition in certain industries is specifically because of government refusing to step in and break up monolithic companies with excessive control over their respective markets. You are certainly right that competition is good, but at the end of the day it only goes so far. You are also right that regulations can be harmful and stifle competition when they are used as a method to protect existing entities... but that requires a scalpel and not a broad aversion to telling companies that they can't do certain things. All I'm saying is, it requires balance. We shouldn't be wary of regulation by default, we should make sure that we are using them in a smart way. All of that aside, it's not about government controlling the data. It's about making sure that no one has their hand on the wheel.

30. joeytaylor

Posts: 957; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

I mostly comr to that conclusion in this situation

42. Ray.S

Posts: 463; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

This is the way I feel about the issue.

32. vincelongman

Posts: 5753; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

"the government in control cause they can block it and shut it down as they see fit" That is and has always been the case, just see China, Iran, ...

3. tedkord

Posts: 17465; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Net neutrality isn't about government control. It's about no one controlling the data. Each bit treated equally, with dumb pipes supplying it.

11. kozza3

Posts: 778; Member since: Oct 17, 2012

Seriously your right on, why does everyone think it means government control? All I want is a dumb pipe to feed me data.

51. markablejones

Posts: 8; Member since: Feb 17, 2017

Telecom companies have spent $100 million trying to convince people that net neutrality is some government takeover of the internet; sad that PA fell for their BS.

13. Acdc1a

Posts: 477; Member since: Jan 21, 2016

Now if that were the case, why would it be so important for a government agency (un-elected mind you) to make the rules?

14. tedkord

Posts: 17465; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

For the same reason you need a government agency to impose rules on pollution, labor, etc... - because corporations won't make the right choices in the public interest without rules. Without the rules, carriers will prioritize data to benefit themselves. They already do it because the rules aren't solidified yet. Verizon doesn't count its own streaming service toward data caps, but does competing services. Comcast does the same. Which might not be as bad, except bandwidth providers today are so entangled with content. Comcast/NBC. Comcast controls the data it supplies so you are driven to their content, as opposed to a cheaper option, like Netflix. Regulations exist because time has shown they are needed.

25. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Its not about Govt control, vut they stull hve their hands in the cookie jar. After all the FCC benwfitsbfrom the taxes and fees being charged. The more you get charged the higher the tax and fees, and the FCC geta a tax winfall of cash. Which is why the Feds are alllwing the corps to basically make the rules. Then the FCC is suppose to clean up any queationable issues. Many times they dont.

5. bighandssmallpockets

Posts: 99; Member since: Dec 13, 2011

We are a nation of laws. Laws are designed to protect us in a manner that hopefully puts the least stress on business and innovation but our protection comes first. I for one trust our government more than I trust Apple or Google. Remember, Google and Apple are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act!

6. k9luvr

Posts: 122; Member since: Oct 17, 2016

You don't think the government can shut down the internet any time it wants irregardless of net neutrality ? Better think again on that one. The only reason your power bill isn't 4 or 5 times more than the current rate is because of government regulation.

8. bighandssmallpockets

Posts: 99; Member since: Dec 13, 2011

This! Regulation allows companies to focus on competing on service rather than duplication of effort creating more pipe.

7. bighandssmallpockets

Posts: 99; Member since: Dec 13, 2011

Also, Joe M.? Who is Joe M.? Care to tell us about your work history and who signs your paycheck? We all carry bias with us and it would be helpful to know yours. Btw, thank you for starting this discussion Joe M. Discussion is good.

9. joeytaylor

Posts: 957; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

Competition should be emphasized more

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