Net Banality

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).

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2 Responses to Net Banality

  1. BharatNN says:

    you are completely missing the core aspect of net neutrality. the service provider should be use-agnostic. also just because leftists support something we cannot stand on the opposite side of them. it is plain stupid. most of them don’t even understand about net neutrality and just want to be seen on the bandwagon. the biggest impediment to this debate are the stupid analogies used by both the sides (just like the several ones you have also used). let me copy-paste my comment on another website (swarajya article) here. though I wrote the comment for the that author it is mostly relevant here also.

    the said comment:
    “the author doesn’t understand or clearly represent the basic concept of ‘bandwidth’, ‘data transfer’ and over exaggerates the limits of the airwaves (for eg compare the bandwidth capabilities of 2G vs 4G) they are not exactly ‘limited’. it is not some kind of a busy traffic junction in which an ambulance needs a right of way. any comparison of internet acces to something physical will completely fail to capture the nature of Internet. the net neutrality debate is also not limited to the airwaves.

    the article is easily capitalising on the ignorance and bad analogies used by many supporters of net neutrality. AIB video is mostly stupid and is just being made famous by equally ignorant media/people. but it is not an end all of arguments for net neutrality.

    Also the arguments in the US/EU on net-neutrality are cherry picked and mostly quotes by the shills of the telecom lobby. conveniently ignores other popular voices like the creator of the web Tim Berners Lee himself. I suggest the author to go to the popular social website Reddit and read the exhaustive discussions on the net neutrality debate and listen to a wide variety of voices from the industry, consumers, senators and other stake holders.

    on the technical side, if a hospital feels it needs more quality of service and high availability, it can just upgrade its hosting service and purchase more bandwidth from the hosting service provider. an ISP has nothing to do with this. ISP should be use-agnostic else it will result in anti-competitive behaviour and DTHisation of the internet which is completely impractical(100s of channels vs millions of websites). ISPs don’t provide limitless of anything, every aspect has limits (bandwidth, data transfer limit etc) and heavily overcharged. diverting the net neutrality debate towards capex is a fraud by the telecom industry and their lobbies to hide their incompetent business practices (not investing in infra, abusing the contention ratios, overselling bandwidth, arbitrary data caps, FUPs, over charging, not peering well with other ISPs, charging same rates of international traffic for domestic traffic/same network traffic also etc).

    to conclude, a study of ISPs in nordic and SEA countries will easily debunk all the baseless fear mongering arguments by our ISPs on the net neutrality debate. but ofcourse to hide their incompetence they will usually count on the ignorance of consumers and policy makers/influencers.

    ISP being use-agnostic on data is the essence of free market else it will become another license raj. this is a simple case of entrenched businesses (telecom) fighting against disruptive technologies (internet services). like cab drivers vs uber n others, shopskeepers vs online retailers etc.”

  2. I recall in the US, there was (is) something called Universal Service Obligation, which was a requirement by fixed line telcos as well as the US Post Office to service every nook and cranny of the country, even though serving remote rural areas was not profitable. Net Neutrality is just a modern twist on that, all said and done. It simply addresses what would otherwise be a market failure…ISPs would go after profitable clients and leave the poorest people and SMEs in the dust, which would degrade the network effect of having everyone having a decent playing field.
    Of course Telcos hate net neutrality, and the public loves it. And the debate will continue. The free market is in the debate, not in net neutrality itself.

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