And liberals are freaking out.
“The Government Just Voted To Completely Screw Up The Internet As You Know It,” declared Buzzfeed. Mother Jones was even funnier, “Yes, Net Neutrality Is Being Stolen From Us in a Fucked Up, Undemocratic Heist.”
This guy even says it’s the “end of the internet as we know it!”
But, with all due respect Sen. Sanders, the internet as we knew it in 2015 wasn’t that bad. Is there something I’m not remembering correctly? Were Netflix and Google gouging me left and right and I didn’t realize it? Does anyone remember the internet of three years ago to be a tyrannical menace desperately in need of government regulation?
I do not pretend to be an expert on net neutrality. The issue is confusing. I’ve heard reasonable arguments for and against it.
On one hand, it really doesn’t seem fair that larger companies like Netflix and others could potentially hog up the internet through so-called “fast lanes” (if that even happens). On the other hand, as Rare’s Don Lim writes:
Even if fast lanes were purchasable, that would not necessarily be a bad thing. Not all internet users use every service equally. For example, Netflix now constitutes over 35 percent of all internet traffic. About half of American internet users watch Netflix. Streaming high-quality content requires higher broadband speeds. For consumers who engage in activities that require fast broadband and low latency—like video streaming, playing online video games, or large file sharing—they may wish to purchase a service that offers such benefits.
This also sounds reasonable.
Is everyone who uses regular Amazon currently being terrorized by the fact that others have purchased Amazon Prime? I stand in line at the movies in the accelerated “premiere” line I pay $15 annually to get popcorn quicker. Does the government need to step in? Obviously, the internet is something we all rely on more than just Amazon or your local theater, but much of the current hyperventilating sounds more like fear of the unknown than a reason to be genuinely concerned.
Of course, there’s also more to this issue than just this aspect. But while I don’t pretend to be an expert on net neutrality, I do recognize manufactured hysteria when I see it. Stoking fear is the easiest way to get people to support your position, something both left and right do shamelessly.
That’s what’s happening right now. If I really thought this was the end of the internet as we know it, I’d be going nuts too.
I remember when my old boss Senator Rand Paul would introduce bills to cut Pentagon spending, hawkish Republicans would accuse him of cutting the military in half or even siding with terrorists. He’s “dangerous!” They couldn’t fear monger quick enough.
The reality? Even the biggest cuts Sen. Paul ever proposed would have returned the U.S. military to mid-2000s spending levels. I don’t remember many Republicans worried in 2005 that George W. Bush had a weak military.
In the wake of today’s FCC news, we should be reading useful information about how the internet has operated over the last three years compared to 2015 when net neutrality was implemented. What were the changes, great or small?
But careful consideration doesn’t serve the purposes of those who believe passionately in the need for net neutrality. There’s no rational discussion to be had in emotional moments like these.
So talk to me in a year when things are very likely going to be pretty much as they are right now on the internet.