What Net Neutrality Means, and Why It's Necessary

It looks as if we're about to go another round with yet another idiot taking on net neutrality.

Much of the debate will be triggered by an anti–net neutrality screed by Andy Kessler that's running as an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

This piece highlights the illogicality of the anti–net neutrality folks, with crackpot assertions and general apologies for the state of affairs in the U.S.

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Let's first look at one of the fabulous arguments by Kessler (and I suppose parroted by others on this bandwagon): "With net neutrality, there will be no new competition and no incentives for build-outs. Bandwidth speeds will stagnate, and new services will wither from bandwidth starvation."

This is funny, since until just a while ago, we had been operating under a de facto net neutrality.

Using Kessler's logic, we should still be using 300-baud modems since there's no incentive to do anything different. How does he — or anyone else, for that matter — explain the progress from 300-baud modems to fiber to the home during this period of genuine net neutrality?

It's only recently that the phone and cable companies have decided to futz with bandwidth, with packet sniffing, bandwidth shaping and ceiling limitations.

It took them this long to figure out how to do this sort of skimping and cheating of the customer. Someone took notice and said there should be a law to "maintain" net neutrality.

• Read here about how Comcast may have 'seat-filled' an FCC hearing probing its admitted violations of net neutrality to make sure its critics didn't get into the room.

Net neutrality is nothing new. It's the way it has always been.

How does codifying it into a law change anything, except to foil the scheming of the phone and cable companies that have — during the era of net neutrality and genuine deregulation — competed very well?

They've competed so well, in fact, that they bought up most of the connectivity.

Now they have exactly what they need in order to cheat the customer because, after all, this is what monopolies do. Lock out the competition. That's the idea. That will make for progress.

Kessler's crazy logic seems to smash into itself with its loony diatribe. He says that Comcast needs the leeway to jack down the bandwidth to protect its cable-TV business. After all, we can't have movies delivered off the Net, can we?

But wait, how does that encourage progress? Hey, Andy, how does this attitude foster the "innovation" you're so concerned about? You can't have it both ways.

When you boil it all down, net neutrality is kind of wimpy. We should have out-and-out government regulation.

Personally, I'm sick of these deregulation absolutists who throw out specious arguments that do not make any sense. For example, Kessler says, "The Internet will only expand based on competitive principles, not socialist diktat."

I love the way these guys throw in the ugly term "socialist" when they want to trigger a 1950's-style knee-jerk reaction from the American public. And in case you didn't notice, he also throws in a Communist term "diktat" so you dummies will be totally repulsed and imagine Stalin lurking.

Look at the Logic

Screw that cheap and tawdry writing trick. Let's look at the logic.

We have no socialist diktat going on, and we are falling behind other countries like crazy in broadband speeds and connectivity. Countries that mandated universal high-speed connectivity (aka socialist diktat) have all zoomed ahead of us.

We are in 16th or 17th place and falling fast. This tells me that we are doing something wrong. We're kowtowing to the wishes of the big telcos — mega corporations that have no real interest in progress, just profits.

I can hear folks saying, "Let's do what they say; they know what's best for us."

These are the bean counters who have done a cost analysis on "slamming" — changing a customer's long-distance telephone service without his consent — to determine whether the fines for this illegal practice are greater than the profits.

They're not interested in the customer and have to be watched like a hawk. Or hasn't anyone noticed?

General telco policies and roughshod practices alone make me question these people's take on net neutrality. Without knowing anything about them, I have to assume that what they want is always going to be bad for the customer and bad for the nation.

There is no evidence to the contrary. If there is, show me.

Thus, I'm suspicious of op-eds talking up the horrors of net neutrality, especially when the facts are never made clear. Instead, we have an out-and-out attempt to befuddle the public and confuse the reader.

Kessler tells us in one paragraph that we have "an overabundance of bandwidth pulsing throughout the U.S." Two paragraphs later he tells us how Comcast has to do its trickery to preserve its "precious bandwidth."

Well, which is it — overabundance or shortage? What? Cripes.

Net neutrality does not keep the ISPs from selling me a 10-megabit-per-second connection at a higher price than a 1-Mbps connection. It does not kill competition.

What it does is allow me to get what I want at the speed that I paid for rather than have some socialists née corporate apparatchiks (I can pull the socialist stunt, too) back at the Kremlin/HQ deciding that I will get a Google feed at half the speed of a Microsoft Live feed when I do a search.

In fact, maybe they'll cut the Google feed altogether. They can do the same to Ford Motor Co. or anyone on the Net.

That's where this is headed. Exactly how this sort of screw job fosters innovation and competition is certainly not explained by Kessler or others of his ilk.

We're looking for a law saying they cannot pull this stunt. How is this a bad thing?

Kessler and the other naysayers cloaked in the grim black robes of free-market absolutism should all be ashamed of themselves for these bogus presentations.