I recently strongly criticized the FCC over its plan to relax station ownership rules and for allowing TV and radio stations to close their local studios. But I support the FCC’s move to repeal net neutrality.
The idea of net neutrality isn’t a bad one. But the way this rule was implemented applies only to the ISPs, not to the Silicon Valley platform companies which are de facto monopolies. Most of us have more alternatives for getting broadband than we do for Facebook or Twitter. What’s more, those Silicon Valley firms are themselves the biggest backers of net neutrality, which is their plan to hobble the only other companies big enough and with enough market power to resist them. Until net neutrality applies to Silicon Valley edge services, it should not be applied to ISPs.
I detail this in my latest City Journal piece, “Who’s Really Censoring the Web?“:
The basic idea of net neutrality makes sense. When I get a phone, the phone company can’t decide whom I can call, or how good the call quality should be depending on who is on the other end of the line. Similarly, when I pay for my cable modem, I should be able to use the bandwidth I paid for to surf any website, not get a better or worse connection depending on whether my cable company cut some side deal to make Netflix perform better than Hulu.
The problem for net neutrality advocates is that the ISPs aren’t actually doing any of this; they really are providing an open Internet, as promised. The same is not true of the companies pushing net neutrality, however. As Pai suggests, the real threat to an open Internet doesn’t come from your cable company but from Google/YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and others. All these firms have aggressively censored.
And yet, these are the same companies—censoring anodyne political channels like Prager University, while letting their sites be used for child exploitation and Russian propaganda—that want to lecture the FCC on net neutrality. Silicon Valley companies want to regulate ISPs even as they continue to benefit from their own special legislative exemptions from regulation and liability—including Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects companies like YouTube from liability for the content posted on their sites.
It should come as no surprise that another key net neutrality backer is the porn industry. Pornographic videos at “tube” sites like PornHub generate massive traffic and eat up tons of bandwidth. It would be entirely appropriate for ISPs to put these sites at the bottom of the priority list for network traffic, or make them pay up. Valid reasons exist to prioritize one kind of traffic over another.
Click through to read the whole thing.