Voluntary Society - Action - Reducing Insecurity

Net Neutrality is a proposal for the federal government to take ownership of internet service provided and owned by private corporations because they believe that they are the best at protecting freedom of speech. This ironic statement is sad when you consider the federal government’s recent role of suppressing the freedom of speech such as;

(a) Three years ago in Morse v. Frederick the U.S. Supreme Court held that public schools have the authority to tell students what types of signs they can hold on their own private property (2007) [1].
(b)    In direct opposition to the freedom of speech the federal government purchased Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) from American Technology Corporation for the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, which lead to riot police using their new weapon for the first time on humans, the arrests of hundreds of innocent civilians, and physical attacks to students at the University of Pittsburgh- all to prevent peaceful protesting with political dissent (2009)[2] [3].
(c)    Senator Jay Rockefeller is drafting and proposing bills in congress that give the federal government control over thousands of private corporations’ property and state that the president can “declare a cyber security emergency” and completely disconnect everyone from the internet (2009) [4].
In 2008 the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ordered the internet service provider Comcast to stop their network management strategy, under the guise of what they call an “open internet” [5]. Unfortunately there is nothing “open” about it, as it further inhibits competition and is designed to give the federal government more control over the internet and service providers.
The Comcast Corporation wants to implement their “congestion management practices” which include; manipulating bandwidth allocation to lower the priority of subscribers who use more bandwidth [6]. Many people believe this practice will lead to Comcast filtering and prioritizing data and bandwidth to their advantage in order to suppress the freedom of speech and to gain a more competitive advantage in other business ventures. For example Comcast might provide faster access to their recently acquired MSNBC website and may slow down access to competitors such as; Fox, ABC, CNN and other alternative news websites such as infowars.com.

Many people and organizations such as the FCC believe that it is the role of government to take an authoritarian approach and command others what to do with their own private property in order to protect freedom, however one has to take into account that Comcast has invested millions of dollars into running physical cables throughout 39 out of 50 states including the District of Colombia, and if the FCC were to block them from selling their own services how they see fit; it would be essentially robbing them of their investment. Even though Comcast may be acting unethical if they do resort to the practice of filtering data; stealing from them is not the sensible, ethical response. There are few practices less logical than; We don’t want you to do anything unethical, so we are going to steal from you. However, when one learns the real reason why Comcast is able to propose these strategies, the entire issue becomes moot.

It is popular belief that only legal regulation can stop monopolies, but top experts in the specific field of monopolies and antitrust acts such as; Professor of Economics at Hartford University Dominick T. Armentano author of Antitrust & Monopoly, disagree completely and state that not only does regulation create monopolies; the only way to stop one is with the power of a free market[7]. Unfortunately the United States hasn’t experienced a truly free market in roughly 100 years, and the majority of the population confuses the term with corporatism. Corporatism is defined as corporations working in coalition with government entities such as a city or state, a free market is defined as an economy based on supply and demand with little or no government intervention [8] [9].

In most cities and towns throughout the United States an individual has very limited options with regards to high speed internet service providers, there is often only one service provider offering Cable (~3-12mbs) and another offering DSL (~1-3mbs). This by definition is a monopoly on the market, and it is common in most municipalities for the city or town to have an agreement with these service providers- effectively suppressing free market competition. It does not take a computer scientist to realize the potential unethical behavior that can result from a corporation having a monopoly on a service with high importance such as the internet, especially when they have private agreements and protection from local governments. This is corporatism and is the real source of the problem.

The basic fundamentals of economics in supply and demand state that when a corporation is not providing services that the public wants, there is an excellent opportunity for a new corporation to step in and fill the gap. The only reason why Comcast can even speculate implementing this strategy is because they know they have a complete monopoly in their market. If there was competition there ready to fill in the gap giving consumers a choice between filtered traffic and freedom, Comcast would not dare to promote anything less than a completely free and open internet, else they would naturally lose a lot of business to their competitors.

If one takes a look 5,000 miles to the east you may see Japan; currently the home of one of the world’s fastest, most free, internet services, offering Fiber To The Home (FTTH) in over 30 million homes all over the country [10]. One can currently obtain a connection to their home with speeds of up to 1,024Mbs for less than $50/month, compared to Comcast which offers ~12Mbs. 1024Mbs is a max upload/download speed of 128 Megabytes per second, so theoretically one could download an entire DVD worth of data from across the country in ~36 seconds, compared to more than 3 hours from the current Cable/DSL providers. The average size of a web page is 130KB that means that in Tokyo you can download and view a web page in just over 1 millisecond or ~1,000 web pages in one second.

How is this possible in Japan? Free market competition; there are currently numerous companies that provide the service of just running these cables directly to your home, compared to the only one company in the cities and towns all over the United States. Then there are dozens of separate service providers that manage your connection to the internet, compared to options in the U.S. where the same company that runs the lines offers the service. A service provider in Japan would not dare publicly discuss such tactics as Comcast's congestion management practices, because they would instantly be boycotted and crushed by their competition. This is fundamental economics in a free market society.

Everyone that wants better, faster, and more freedom in internet service should not be screaming regulation, they should be screaming free market. How do current service providers have monopolies in their market? Is it because they are the only companies in the entire country capable of offering internet services? Absolutely not, it is because of corporatism and the many local towns and municipalities that work out private agreements with current service providers, effectively creating and ensuring the permanent sustainability of these monopolies. This type of strategy belongs in a socialist country, not the United States; for how can liberty prevail in a society where governments cater to only one specific special interest?

If politicians are serious about a long-term permanent solution to continuously provide a real “open internet”, the only answer is to influence these municipalities into adopting a free market system and promote competition. Keeping the market closed and discriminating against other corporations that want to compete, will only further propagate monopolies and ultimately suppress not just the freedom of speech, but also the American Dream that the free market provides.

By Chester Gould

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