Candidate Brian Caforio for CA25 took to SCVNews to discuss how the internet as we know it will soon be a thing of the past, with the FCC commissioners set to vote on repealing the 2015 net neutrality rule change (which has now occurred). I remember the “wild-west” days where our benevolent leaders had yet to institute strict rules and guidelines to ensure our ability to access any website we desired, and provide more government meddling to further ensure our internet freedoms. Tongue and cheek aside, as someone vying to be my representative in the House, I feel it important to examine his claims and see if he’s really fighting for my liberties, or just enjoys coming up with ways to denigrate Congressman Steve Knight.
Net Neutrality is a regulatory framework that blocks broadband providers from restricting access to lawful content or websites of their choosing, disallows throttling of service (i.e. some sites would load faster than another), and bans affiliates or companies from paying for prioritization. If these regulations worked as suggested, everyone could access any site with the same speed, thus creating the phrase “internet freedom and equality.” Unfortunately, what Bryan misses is the freedom he purports net neutrality provides in fact does the exact opposite, by placing bureaucratic barriers between consumers and the product they wish to purchase. Let’s look at some of his claims:
- ISP’s can create slow or fast lanes – Bryan is correct here, but his insinuation is customers who access services like Netflix or Hulu and stream high volumes of data for hours could have watching speeds reduced. If an ISP decided to throttle back Netflix or Hulu, I believe a vast majority of consumers would dump them in a heartbeat in order to find an ISP that doesn’t. Having real competition among service providers (be it in a digital world or in the real world) ensures that companies do not have leverage to discriminate against such websites. Additionally, what about the internet users who don’t stream, and simply want to do emails, Amazon shopping, or low volume bandwidth activity? Why should they be forced to pay more for access to something they do not want just to cover the cost of those who use data profusely; is that really equality and freedom?
- Eliminating Net Neutrality will hurt small businesses and stifle innovation – Bryan suggests that small businesses and startups won’t be able to afford faster internet speeds so they won’t be able to compete with big business. For this to be fact, the following would have to be true: 1) That the “slow lane” would not provide ample speed for that small business’s needs, 2) the “fast lane” truly is unaffordable (which is completely subjective), and 3) the ISP does decide to limit their content and accessibility to other businesses. Just because there is the potential for something to happen that could harm our daily internet life, does not, and should not, immediately justify the need for governmental intervention! Was there an onslaught of small businesses being stifled from internet accessibility and adequate bandwidths prior to net neutrality in 2015? No, there was an administration that feared an ISP trying a new business model, thus justifying an unelected body’s need to push through these rules and regulations.
- Finally, the biggest fear suggested is that ISPs could start restricting content, and thus, limit the free speech and access to information by individuals. If we assume that is exactly what an ISP would do without some unelected agency “looking out for us,” it would be a terrible business decision! Anytime a service we pay for starts restricting what we can get, limits accessibility, or simply lowers our purchasing experience in general, the appropriate action is to go elsewhere for our business, and NOT beg the government to force that business to give us what we want.
Net Neutrality, like the Affordable Care Act, is just more feel-good legislation concocted under this misguided notion that something will never be affordable or free without government restricting it, the exact opposite of what our founders envisioned for all of America’s endeavors into our newly found freedoms! It will simply end up hurting those who no longer have inherent market protections, as they are taking away in order to create government defined and instituted “equality.” Here we are, a few days after the FCC has in fact removed Net Neutrality, and the online world is still strong, expedient, and surviving just fine. Maybe we should try it with the Affordable Care Act, and stop using any reversal of Obama-era policies as simply a partisan invitation to disparage our sitting Representative?