Senator Cruz posted on twitter earlier today that:
“Net Neutrality” is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.
I am curious to think through if Cruz is misinformed, or is perhaps on to something. Let’s set the stage, Cruz is a conservative. He feels Obamacare reaches too far into American’s lives and forces folks to pay for services they do not all need (and services some do not support due to religious reasons). Cruz is also a fiscal conservative who believes in the free market…A truly free market, where government should not have a single hand in the private sector (okay this part may be a reach for Cruz, but… it paints the picture a bit better). With that mindset, let’s think through how “Net Neutrality” is Obamacare for the Internet.
Comcast has explained they need to charge more money to pay for the large expense of infrastructure that sites like Netflix are demanding. Specifically, they need to build bigger pipes as more Americans are trying to cram their Glee loving habits into an internet crazed world. Comcast doesn’t want to pass the fees onto the consumer (heh, yea…), so they are charging the companies “responsible” for the content. In theory, this drives up the price of Netflix, but keeps the cost lower for me, a non-Netflix subscriber. My internet as a non-netflix subscriber may be adversely affected during peaks times if Comcast cannot expand the tubes to handle the traffic of my neighbor and me. What a dilemma!
Now, let’s say I am an entrepreneurial man, who is fed up with the cost of Comcast and I feel I can do it better. I decide to start an ISP that leverages the cities fiber infrastructure (the same way google fiber has done, weird). I may decide I am committed to net neutrality (as a business) and as a result, I see a flood of customers who are sick of a poor experience/cost/speed. My ability to provide this service may take some time, but imagine what the world would be like if I could un-seed the heavily entrenched cable company and provide a better service! Imagine the market share – My target market would be every citizen of the world! If Comcast or other providers decide to charge more to render websites, or they prioritize packets based on their discretion, couldn’t that force a revolution in ISP? I think it could.
Let’s get back to Cruz’s post now that his masterpiece is almost complete. Net Neutrality forces Americans to pay for their neighbor’s binge Netflix watching, while continuing to stagnate an industry that needs to be de-throned (where Obamacare forces me to pay for services I religiously disagree with, without “fixing” the healthcare industry). This will be a painful road if we don’t pass net-neutrality laws, but if we believe in a free market (like Cruz may/does), we will end in a better place.
As for the second statement about the Internet should not operate at the speed of government, I can only assume Cruz is worried the regulation will slow advancements in the free market he is contrasting. Even that assumption is a bit of a stretch, but you never know. We only have 140 characters to express ourselves on the wonderful twitter platform.