Why Net Neutrality Isn't Ridiculous
During the Senate debate on overturning the FCC's Net Neutrality rules a yesterday, Senator Marco Rubio called the threats to Internet freedom from bandwidth throttling "ridiculous". He went on to list some recent indications of growth in the Internet despite the sagging economy, citing these things as evidence that the FCC's rules aren't necessary.
The problem with Rubio's argument is he uses Bayesian logic; essentially claiming that what we have seen in the past indicates what we can expect in the future. When it comes to the Internet, we know this to be a shaky foundation on which to build an argument. I teach a class on social networking and privacy and my students were laughing at the fact that people still sit in front of a television at a scheduled time. "Why would you let something control your life like that?" They don't have phone service or cable t.v., just Internet access, and they watch the shows they are interested in "for free". This type of change in attitude and entertainment consumption doesn't accurately reflect what was going on 5 or even 2 years ago.
In addition, the list of growth items that have been highlighted in the press (the official transcript isn't released until tomorrow) does not include the type of competition net neutrality, as defined by the FCC, is supposed to encourage. Rubio cites things like tablet computing, mobile devices, and the expansion of broadband. Major Internet Service Providers are often major content providers, and have a strategic reason for discouraging smaller content providers and alternate services, like VOIP and streaming video, from becoming mainstream. These smaller service providers are a threat to their bottom line and if throttling bandwidth to your competition is allowed, it is only rational for a business to take advantage of that option.