Yesterday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced his plan to repeal net neutrality, a policy that went into effect in April of 2015. Of course, the doomsday prophets immediately the end is nigh for a free and open internet, and it seems libertarians have bought into this absurdity, going so far to claim that if the government ends net neutrality, then the government is infringing upon the individual right to free speech. Among other claims, the doomsday prophets claim ending net neutrality will lead to more monopolies. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Ironically enough, one of the top issues people take with net neutrality is that people will now be able to pay for faster internet. This “issue” should just be another reason that libertarians should celebrate the death of net neutrality.
Perhaps the dumbest case against net neutrality is that it violates free speech. The claim is that since private businesses can choose how they price their services, it limits an individual’s ability to speak and be heard. If one thinks the freedom of speech allows restrictions on private entities, then do people have the right to break into my house as long as they plan to talk politics with me once they break in? This may be a hyperbolic situation, but it’s the logical conclusion to this logic.
In addition, just because you have the right to speak without government interference, does that mean private entities that sell bull horns, microphones, speakers, or other audio equipment are violating your rights? Obviously not. To say that repealing net neutrality violates free speech since it allows for competitive pricing online is to say that selling a gun is a violation of the 2nd Amendment since the gun should just be given away. Free Speech is not a positive right. It’s a negative right. You have the right to do something, but you do not have the right to force me to pay for your actions.
Another ridiculous claim from the dramatists is that ending net neutrality will lead to more monopolies and corruption. But the truth of the matter is that net neutrality has caused increased monopolization and corruption. What net neutrality ultimately did was undermine the market allocation of goods by allowing the State to determine how the internet is managed. If libertarians are so quick to accept the market as the proper means of producing food, water, housing, etc., then why are they so hesitant to accept a free market for internet? Simply put, there is no logical reason to believe a free market in internet will create a monopoly.
It seems that advocates of net neutrality beg for a monopoly: the State. People that want the government to hijack the market for ISPs are just begging for the government to monopolize it either through the State, or through the State’s selected winner. This is where we get to corruption. If you have regulation, you have regulatory capture. I, as a big businessman, see that the government wants to regulate me, so I buy them off. It happens all the time. It happens more often than not.
Even if regulatory capture were to disappear miraculously, the regulations wouldn’t hurt big ISPs nearly as much as they would hurt small ones. Big businesses have a greater capacity to afford the costs of regulations than small businesses. It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to realize that having more money makes you more able to afford expenses, so why don’t people see this with regulation. The regulators will merely put small competitors out of business. Net Neutrality only stifles competition, and thus decreases quality of service and increases prices.
Now that Net Neutrality is on the way out, competition will finally reemerge and we can start to see even more progress in the digital sector. What the end of Net Neutrality does is lower the cost of entry into the industries of the internet. With this new deregulation, the young and entrepreneurial have a chance at making a better digital world for all of us. Net Neutrality was anything but neutral. Rather, it put people with new ideas at a disadvantage, all but forcing them to join the big corporations when they would be better off competing against the giants.
One of these new innovations can be that of competitive pricing. If I want to just buy internet service that allows me to check my email and write articles, why should the government stop a producer from meeting that demand? What if someone wants a super fast internet speed? Why should the government stop this individual from paying more for faster speeds? There is no reason. If there’s a demand, the market can handle such a situation much more effectively than Leviathan.
Perhaps the greatest straw man regarding this is that ISPs will make you pay for access to specific websites. While the ISPs would in fact have the right to do this, it would be economic suicide for them to do so. There is no incentive for a business to lower their quality while charging the same price (unless they are a monopoly, but we have already proven that ending net neutrality will end monopolization). Also, it is important to remember that Net Neutrality was implemented in April of 2015. Do you remember when you had to pay extra to log in to Facebook back in 2014? No? Me either. This has never happened before. People claiming this will happen have never given any reason to believe it will happen. It’s nothing more than a scare tactic to make the people wish away their freedom.
Ultimately, Net Neutrality is nothing short of Internet Communism. It is the State ordering the expropriation of the entire ISP industry from the private sector to the public sector. It is a massive uptake in central planning in which private owners have no say. Libertarians have absolutely no reason, whether it be economic or ethical, to support such an evil and inefficient idea.