Talvieno wrote: ↑
Mon Dec 11, 2017 2:07 pm
A few days ago Ajit Pai mocked everyone that supported net neutrality, and joked about being a Verizon shill. He's corrupt, and knows it's quite obvious he's corrupt, and he's even willing to flaunt that fact because he's sure of "victory" and doesn't care what the public thinks about him.
Tal, I think you're being very unreasonable here. "Corrupt" means that the only possible reason Pai (or anyone else) could maintain that regulation of fraudulent business practices should be restored to the Federal Trade Commission -- which is mostly what has actually been proposed -- is because he's taking money from telecom lobbyists. Is there evidence of this?
If not, why is it so hard to accept that people who think the FCC shouldn't be dictating ISP services and prices might actually be decent, normal human beings? You may disagree with them. Maybe they're wrong. It does not mean they're corrupt. That is a very serious charge that ought to be reserved for when there is actual evidence of a payoff, otherwise the criticism loses its meaning.
To try to pull back a bit from the emotion, I've carefully read a number of the "net neutrality" arguments, and I think I can see how it emerges from several beliefs:
- ISPs can't be trusted to decide what to charge the customers of the services they (the ISPs) paid to build.
- It is impossible for new and more responsive ISPs to emerge who can compete with the current big (and abusive) ISPs.
- Federal regulators, despite having more power than private businesses, are less corruptible than ISPs.
(There's another, less honorable reason for pushing for more government regulation, but I'm assuming good intent from the commenters here.)
The reason I don't share the pro-net neutrality conclusion is because I don't hold the beliefs behind that conclusion.
1. Anyone holding that first belief -- that businesses need to have the services they offer and the prices they charge controlled by the government -- has a duty to explain exactly how national price controls have ever worked, or how they will benefit consumers versus maintaining the ability of businesses to decide for themselves the prices they ask for the non-fraudulent goods and services they want to sell. (And no, an ISP charging Netflix more because Netflix consumes a large percentage of finite network capacity is not fraud. You may think it's a bad idea, but bad ideas are not fraud.)
The salient facts here are that the feds do not have to care one whit whether their rules put a company out of business, while a business that wants to continue to exist must at least try to satisfy most of its customers. To believe that federal regulators "care" more about consumers than a for-profit corporation, simply because they (the permanent civil servants) have the raw power to arbitrarily dictate what services may be provided and at what price, is to choose to believe a thing that never has been and never will be true.
This is not a claim that all federal regulators are devils any more than it's a claim that all ISP employees are saints. Neither of those things is so. They're all just people. But there is a crucial organizational, institutional difference between them, and that difference is that a for-profit business must respond to customer demand to stay alive, while federal agents can (as long as they can claim some legislation applies) do whatever the hell they want regardless of whether it puts companies out of business, at which point their services are no longer available to any consumers at any price.
ISPs should be allowed to charge their customers what they want, because businesses are subject to market forces and federal controllers are not. Market forces don't guarantee you'll get everything you could ever want, or that you'll get it Right Now; they just improve the odds of your getting some of what you want eventually... a valuable pressure that does not exist in any way in a federal agency whose employees are permanently subsidized by taxes. Yes, people running businesses sometimes do stupid things. So do people in federal agencies; the difference is that one stupid business only ruins itself.
Basically, it is an error to believe that consumer interests are always aided by people with government power arbitrarily trying to prevent what are 100% ethical and legal
(even if sometimes financially stupid) business practices. You may not like those practices, or lousy customer service, or some other thing. Fine. If so, there is already have a solution available to you: switch to a different provider that does a better job of delivering the services you want at a price you're willing to pay.
2. "But the ISPs are too big, there aren't any other options!" In that case, you ought to be arguing for less
federal regulatory interference, not more.
The history of regulation -- regardless of any good intentions claimed by anyone -- is to protect existing large players at the expense of smaller, newer competitors. This happens because regulation imposes costs of doing business that the big players can easily pay, but smaller startups can't afford.
I actually agree with many of the criticisms of Internet providers today. I've just ended a three-year running battle with AT&T to get Internet service that actually works; I recently spent seven -- no exaggeration -- hours on the phone being shuttled from one incorrect, clueless AT&T office to another. If there was a company that offered the data rate I wanted using the available technology at a price I was willing to pay, I'd have already switched. AT&T sucks.
Well, guess what? Embedding hundreds and thousands of federal regulators with AT&T and Verizon and Comcast and all the other big players will not do a blessed thing to improve my service. There is not a single FCC bureaucrat who cares about me, or you, personally, or has any interest whatsoever in the fact that my Internet service sucked. When your Internet service goes out, is there a phone number of an FCC regulator you can call to get your service restored?
The only thing that increasing regulatory expenses will actually do is limit the new services that ISPs pay to develop (because why bother when they can't recoup those costs because feds are forcing flat fees?), and raise prices with no commensurate service improvement (because regulatory compliance costs get passed to the consumer, always).
I suspect most of us here could agree that we want more Internet service providers competing for our business. That competition is how services improve. Consumers vote with their wallets. The point I'd like more people to appreciate is that the history of regulation -- go look it up in a reputable source if you can't believe me -- is to reduce competition, preserving the big players regardless of how sucky their goods and services are. If you want more choice in ISPs, you should be supporting
Pai's efforts to roll back federal regulation to only that which is necessary to limit fraud.
3. Finally, as for whether federal regulators ought to be in charge of Internet content, have we already forgotten the NSA's collection of "aggregated" phone data? Or that the FCC itself was collecting phone usage information? And this doesn't even scratch a molecular layer off the decades of well-documented screw-ups and abuses by federal bureaucrats.
How can anyone claim to be consistent who's upset at federal agents monitoring their activity (when it's the NSA) but also demands that federal agents monitor their activity (when it's the FCC)? Does anyone really believe that there's a difference in the levels of competence and honesty between career civil servants at one federal agency versus another?
When you've succeeded in giving flawed, fallible, finite human beings working for the national government the power to monitor everyone's Internet activity -- because that's necessary to ensure the "fairness" you demanded from ISPs -- you will have zero grounds to complain about them reading your email or, entirely predictably, start telling you what sites you're allowed to visit.
To sum up: a reasonable person can conclude, based on the factual history of federal regulatory action, that leaving the FCC's 2015 rule change in place to dictate what goes through Internet pipes is likely to reduce service improvements and increase costs, making things not better but worse
for consumers, and furthermore that it may actually be dangerous to hand federal agents the power to impose content restrictions on ISPs. We may disagree on these points... but absolutely no good whatsoever is done by throwing around accusations that anyone in favor of eliminating the briefly invented "net neutrality" policy must be corrupt.
I understand others here will disagree with this analysis, and (for whatever reasons) may feel very strongly about it. Cool. If you're sure yours is the stronger position, you should be able to lay out your facts and reasoning without being insulting about it, just as I've tried to do, and then we can continue to also talk with each other in a friendly way about other things.
But assuming ill-intent on the part of anyone who disagrees with us is possibly the most dangerous path of all for a culture... and not much fun for what's normally a welcoming discussion forum.