“Net Neutrality”

“Net neutrality” is a dumb idea, on a par with “buy local.”

The logic of net neutrality is as follows: All autos must be black Model-Ts. It’s not “fair” if someone offers to make a Mustang for those who want something better. It’s not “fair” if Mustang owners can get from place to place faster than Model-T owners. We must all be the same. No more of this male or female nonsense, or allowing batters to hit more than their “share” of home runs, etc.

Almost everything that one can buy comes in different gradations of quality: automobiles, shoes, bread, haircuts, computers, internet service, and on and on. Those gradations of quality enable each of us to buy goods and services that meet our particular needs, given our income constraints and preferences.

Why should I object if certain producers of web content get better service (faster delivery of their content) if they pay a fee for that better service? They’re paying a fee for a service, just as I’m paying a higher fee for my high-speed DSL service than are many other consumers who can’t afford or choose not to pay as much for their internet service as I do. My higher fee enables me to obtain web content faster than those other consumers. Should I be forced to accept a slower speed so that they won’t be relegated to “second class” status? What about those consumers who pay even more than I do and, in return, get even faster DSL or cable service? What about those consumers who buy big Lexuses when others can only afford Honda Civics? What about those consumers who buy tailored suits when others can only afford to buy their clothes at Wal-Mart?

You can see the end of it can’t you? By the “logic” of net neutrality, everyone would be forced to accept goods and services of the same quality. That quality would be poor because there would be no incentive to produce better goods and services to earn more money in order to buy better goods and services — because they couldn’t be bought. Reminds me of the USSR.

But it’s “different” for providers of web content. Or so say the proponents of net neutrality. The providers of web content aren’t consumers, they’re producers. (Aren’t we all, in one way or another?) If they’re able to deliver their content faster than other producers, they’ll have an “unfair” advantage over those other providers. To which I say balderdash. Here’s why:

1. A demand for faster delivery of web content will be met by a supply of greater internet capacity, as supliers of internet capacity upgrade their networks in their competitive efforts to meet the demand for faster delivery. That is, the loss of net neutrality is unlikely to have any effect on other content providers. But there’s more to it . . .

2. Faster delivery will command a premium, just as a Lexus commands a premium over a Honda Civic.

3. Content providers will demand faster delivery and pay the premium for it only to the extent that it yields a positive return (i.e., greater profit).

4. Faster delivery will yield a positive return only to the extent that consumers actually respond to the products and services offered by buying sufficiently more of them.

5. Those consumers, therefore, will pay the premium for the faster delivery of web content.

End of discussion.

P.S. Well, almost the end of the discussion. A friend responded to the first paragraph of this post, which I put on my Facebook wall. He wrote:

Logic is all roads must be open to all. The vehicles you drive may range from Model A Fords to $300,000 race cars. But we all have access to the same highways. NN is very similar to Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway program of the 50s. Don’t confuse product using Net with the Net itself.

To which I replied:

The “road” is open, but it has some toll lanes. Moreover, the “road” is privately owned. Don’t confuse someone else’s property and business with your own.

And…NN says that even if you own a race car, you can’t go faster than a Model A. NN is like the Interstate Highway program would have been if government had commandeered privately built highways and dictated the terms of their use. NN is like telling you that your restaurant can serve only grilled cheese sandwiches because there are customers who can’t afford steak.

He does own a restaurant, and you might think that he would not favor big government. But he does, out of long habit and “religious” fervor. The restaurant is a post-retirement extravagance. He continues to believe (as lefties do) that government is a precision instrument, which can and will be applied only to those ends that they favor. And yet (as lefties do) he complains when government is controlled by Republicans and does things of which he disapproves.