I realize that when a billionaire “progressive” such as Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet or George Soros makes a statement about government policy, it’s automatically and always right. Billionaires who want government control over the economy are given a free pass on expressing their views.
All the same, in the interest of equal time, it’s worth noting that billionaire Mark Cuban has a different perspective on Net Neutrality, which the Federal Communications Commission today decreed to be law, as anticipated.
“That will fuck everything up,” said the voluble Cuban in remarks Wednesday at the Code/Media conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, Calif.
In early February, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed tough new rules for Internet lines that would prohibit wired and wireless broadband providers from collecting payment to cut to the front of the line, or blocking and throttling lawful content and services.
Cuban said this bid to significantly expand the agency’s authority to regulate broadband providers is nothing more than an attack on giant media companies like Comcast.
“Net neutrality is just a demonization of big companies,” Cuban said.
Cuban, who parlayed his windfall from the 1999 sale of Broadcast.com to Yahoo into an array of ventures that include the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, AXS TV and the Landmark Theatres chain, said there is no evidence (beyond an isolated 2008 case) that Internet providers have throttled access to certain websites. [reported at recode.net]
It’s not an issue of demonizing big companies so much as playing favorites. The federal government wants to be involved so it can reward the big companies who do what it likes, and punish or ostracize the big companies who do what they dislike.
A Facebook reader of mine put it eloquently:
The Politicians’ other argument for NN is directed at ISPs like Comcast who want to charge content companies like Netflix more money to deliver their content faster and with higher priority.
SO WHAT? Why shouldn’t ISPs and telecommunications carriers be allowed to charge more money to deliver greater bandwidth, more reliable and consistent delivery, and protocol prioritization? As consumers we are free to choose how much Internet bandwidth we’re willing to pay for, and the providers are free to determine the cost to deliver that access, as it should be. [Thank you Buddy Fufb Shipley]
In a government-run pseudo-market (also known as economic fascism), the standards shift from consumer satisfaction to political concerns. Government talks of “fairness” as over and above profit; what this always means in practice is manipulating the decisions of big businesses to suit the political purposes of the particular political party in power.
The really interesting part of the article at recode.net is this statement:
The executive [Mark Cuban] dismissed Netflix’s claims that subscribers endured slower speeds until the company paid Comcast for direct access to the Internet provider’s broadband network. Comcast claimed that Netflix had used an inferior middleman to deliver video to Comcast’s network.
“It’s a battle between two fairly large companies,” Cuban said. “[They] worked it out, just like happens in business every day.”
That’s the key. Businesses work things out, because they have to do so. Government stands in the background, enforcing the right to private property and to uphold contracts willingly signed. At least, that’s how it would be in a free market.
As significant as the Internet has become, this “Net Neutrality” issue is about more than the market. It’s a grab for power by the federal government. You see, the federal government isn’t interested in leaving well enough alone, or letting companies work out matters on their own, based on the motives of profit, survival and customer satisfaction.
The federal government — and this probably includes most of the Republican Party, as well — cannot stand the idea that the Internet economy was a successful instance of (in today’s context) relatively unhampered market capitalism. It’s precisely because this model of (relatively) unhampered capitalism worked so well that government now has to regulate it. Otherwise, it could be held up as a model for the rest of the economy. “If the Internet works so well with little or even no regulation, then what does this suggest for health care, education, lending, and all the other sectors of the economy under government management or control?”
The statists who run the nation’s capital can’t have it, and they won’t have it. That’s why Obama and his Democratic majority on the FCC pushed this through. And that’s why the Republican-led Congress won’t lift a finger in protest. Most of them are just fine with it.
The people I hear defending the Orwellian-named Net Neutrality do so on the premise that it will bring this or that benefit to the consumer. Which consumer? Any action of government bringing benefit to one party (or company), by definition brings harm or loss to another. On what basis does the government take over management of the Internet itself to “benefit consumers” when the government will be the one picking winners and losers based on political — never economic — considerations?
The only proper role for government is a crucial one — to uphold contracts voluntarily entered into by consumers and businesses. Without such a role for government, there would indeed be chaos and anarchy. Advocates of “Net Neutrality” want us to believe that turning the Internet into a public utility will inaugurate this role, when the government was already playing that role all along. The real and only possible purpose for this rule is to ensure that government sets the terms of contracts into which customers and businesses would otherwise freely enter.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai (a Republican who opposed so-called Net Neutrality) put it best: It’s a “solution that won’t work to a problem that doesn’t exist.” Exactly right.
Government regulation and control is a beautiful form of evil. It’s self-contained and self-reinforcing. Once government gets control of something, then it eliminates competition. “Private” companies are still allowed to keep their names and exist as “freely competing” entities, so long as they follow the dictates of the government and treat their own efforts at providing bandwidth, and whatever else, as the product of the government. It’s the “You didn’t build that” mentality taken to its logical endpoint.
Politicians get to have their cake and eat it too. When things go wrong, the “free market” gets blamed, even though a public utility is not a free market; it’s a government-controlled cartel. When things go right, the “humanitarian impulses” of the do-gooders in government get all the credit, paving the way for still more control over everything else in our lives.
A free market Internet in twenty-first century America? Forget about it. Politicians in power don’t want citizens to get the wrong idea. Government standing away from the economy might actually be a good thing — or even a better thing than the socialism and economic fascism which we have moved toward in almost every other way.
For that reason alone, the Internet — as we know it — has got to go.