I expect left-wingers to endorse that which is popularly claimed to be “Net Neutrality”. And they are endorsing it, of course. What I am a little surprised by is the eagerness of those who allegedly profess free markets to jump on to this fashionable bandwagon. These people are either getting swayed by the “internet khatre mein hai!” hyperbole, or are unable to grasp the hypocritical contradiction between preaching and practice that they have gotten into. This short blog post is addressed to them, not to the commies.
In a socialist economy, the big-brother state decides the goods and services that the producers and consumers of those goods and services may trade in. It even decides their prices. In contrast, in a market economy, markets determine what gets traded and at what price.
The so-called net-neutrality argument is a socialist argument because it is dictating to telecom service providers what services they may offer to their customers. Telecom companies are being told they have no right to privilege Flipkart over Amazon (why not?) or that they may not block access to any internet site. (Ridiculously, “freedom of speech” is being touted as argument against blocking. The state guarantees only freedom of speech, not a distribution channel for it).
At this point, some alleged economic “rightwingers” argue that while they are for economic freedom, they are not against a little regulation of industry in the cause of “larger public good” (the old socialist chestnut). “Net neutrality” apparently warrants such intervention because internet has become “essential” utility.
Well, I have some news. The internet is a not a natural resource, like the air one breathes or the water one drinks. The internet is a product of human endeavour and genius. It costs tons of money to invent, produce and operate the equipment that runs the net.
If internet is really a very essential utility, perhaps it must become part of the civic amenities that state delivers. Do not pass the burden (of running it according to your business model) on to private enterprise.
If “internet” is an “essential” utility that man cannot live without, then how about housing, (surely, every man needs a roof over his head), and therefore, naturally, “Apartment Neutrality” guaranteeing access to it? So how about we stipulate that builders may not privilege rich buyers over poorer buyers, or plush neighborhoods over slums?
Or, as a Twitter friend mentioned, how about “News Neutrality”? Aren’t newspapers and TV stations an “essential utility”? (Don’t tell me they are not! You certainly cannot live without NDTV, can you?) News Neutrality dictates unrestricted and equal access to all opinion, so how about we pass a law that for every oped published pouring venom on Modi, media outfits must also run one praising him to the skies?
Ditto with “Car Neutrality”. Transport is undisputedly an essential utility. Condo Neutrality may earn a man a home, but to earn a living, he must get out of that home with the help of Car Neutrality. So how about car-makers devise the mechanics of some very easy financing (extremely long tenures, perhaps), so that everybody and Kejriwal may have access to cars, not only the rich guys in SUVs?
I expect socialist Dogmatixes to gleefully answer “yes! yes! yes!” to the above questions but I certainly do not expect alleged rightwingers to do the same.
Kindly stop peddling the nonsense that internet is such an essential service that the providers of that service must be subjected to business-stifling regulation that other enterprises, including providers of other “essential” services and goods, are not subjected to. (It would help also to stop projecting telcos as particularly evil). “Net neutrality” is immoral from an economic-freedom perspective.
(Disclosure: I work in the telecom industry).