If you believe the worst case scenarios promoted by both sides of the net neutrality debate, we’re headed for the end of the Internet as we know it. Either we will have state-run, censored, taxed Internet or we will have expensive, monopoly-driven, corporate Internet. Is there no possibility left of simply leaving things as they are now?
Oh, wait. That is one side of the debate. Funny how net neutrality supporters seem to miss that in all the confusion. You see, while one side wants to impose 80-year-old legislation meant for telephone lines onto the Internet, the other side wants to…um, just leave it alone. Like we have since the beginning. The Internet has been perhaps the greatest example of the free market in action. With low startup costs, millions of people have had the opportunity to connect, start businesses, compete, and let their voices be heard. To say it has changed the world would be an understatement.
And now the left wants to put an end to all of that exciting innovation. If “too big to fail” was the catchphrase of 2008, “too big to succeed” must be the catchphrase of 2014. Fear of what some big ISPs might do has led the worrywart left to beg the government for intervention. Don’t let them take away my bandwidth, Mr. President!
What Could Go Wrong?
While the left has a point when it says the Internet is no longer a luxury, that doesn’t change the dangers of government regulation. Somehow, we always forget that government makes things worse, not better. We trust that this time, things will be different. Surely they will! And we’re ready to kick these past two decades of unparalleled freedom to the curb just to make sure a few ISPs don’t muck it up.
The main supporters of net neutrality are young people, which is to be expected. When you’re in college, you haven’t yet had enough encounters with state inefficiency and overreach to get jaded. It takes a few years of filing taxes, getting driver’s licenses, and observing Washington to see how unbearable the government really is. But when you do, the thought of handing them the greatest invention of the last fifty years – arguably one of the greatest of all time – is enough to send a chill up your spine.
Look, there are reasons to be concerned about the future of the Internet even without government interference. Anti-competition laws and prohibitive startup costs limit the free market competition ISPs should be forced to engage in. But I believe these problems can be solved in the private sector. In fact, I know they can. As long as the feds stay out of it, America can solve any problem its citizens put their mind to. Once it’s taken out of our hands, though, the future is shrouded in dark uncertainty.