by Luke Henderson
Regulations set in 2015 by the Federal Communications Commission requiring internet service providers to allow access to websites without blocking or favoring certain ones, commonly known as net neutrality, are set to be repealed. President Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, stated “Going forward, we cannot stick to regulations from the Great Depression […]. Nothing about the internet was broken in 2015.”
The formal vote to begin the repeal process is expected to come on May 18.
This news brought much criticism from the Progressive members of congress. Tulsi Gabbard responded on twitter saying “Net neutrality protects us from corporate censorship of information. The FCC’s obligation is to the people. We want an equal, open internet.”
Bernie Sanders released a statement where he claimed “For years, net neutrality has prohibited big Internet corporations from favoring or blocking certain viewpoints or websites. Our free and open Internet has made invaluable contributions to democracy both here in the United States and around the world.”
What these congressmen fail to recognize is that the Internet is a service provided by a business and by treating this service as right that deems everyone should have equal access, they are limiting what ISPs can do to adjust to market changes.
The Libertarian Party stated in 2010, when net neutrality was proposed, that “While the idea of equal consumer access to websites and information is desired, it’s important to question whether or not the government should be involved in the first place.”
They continue by claiming that there had been no signs of ISPs discriminating against certain sites and that these companies already have incentive to provide accessible internet because of consumer demand.
Per Riley Flaherty of The Libertarian Republic, ISPs were slowing down certain aspects of the internet to assure quality of other services that require more bandwidth, such as making calls on Skype. This practice is called Quality of Service and requiring equal service forces every use of the internet, from viewing e-mails to broadcasting live, to share the same space which effects quality.
The author explains “The list of negative side effects go on and on, but the last one I will mention is its adverse effect on small internet service providers. Small internet service providers, especially ones that operate in very rural areas where limited internet options are available use QoS to slow down Netflix and torrent downloads. […], it serves to conserve scare resources.”
The overall libertarian position is that of making contracts between companies and consumers. Voluntary action on both ends will create the best product and incentivize companies to meet the demands of the consumer. What makes this difficult is that ISPs are not necessarily purely private enterprises.
According to an article from the Mises Institute “[…] because of the various degrees of corporatism-state favors and protectionism, tax funding of infrastructure, etc.- the service providers are arguably not 100% private. But the solution is not to regard them as essentially part of the state and thus fair game for regulation […].”
In general, repealing net neutrality would remove state interference and would more likely lead to a better-quality internet dedicated to the demand of internet users and remove more corporate influence from our government. Libertarians should support the FCC’s current push to repeal these regulations.