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Demosthenes's avatar

What are the pros and cons of net neutrality?

Asked by Demosthenes (5950points) November 23rd, 2017

All I hear about are the “pros”, and some of the claims about what life would be like without NN sound quite alarmist to me! No issue can ever be so one-sided. What are some downsides to NN? If, as I’ve heard, the FCC is expected to do away with Obama-era NN regulations, what are their reasons for doing so?

Thank you for reading and answering.

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21 Answers

johnpowell's avatar

If you aren’t Comcast, Verizon, Centurylink, Cox, Charter there are no downsides.

I would argue that internet needs to be classified as a utility like electricity is. My electricity is cheap and works 99.999% Comcast can’t say the same.

seawulf575's avatar

Net neutrality sounds like a great idea….everyone should have access to the internet material without having an intermediate entity controlling what it allows through. Companies like Comcast, Verizon, etc are those intermediate entities.
But another consideration should be given: Google, Yahoo, etc control how you find material as well. They put material they want you to see first in their search engines, based on either ideological or monetary considerations. Net Neutrality rules don’t touch these.
The cons of the Obama Administrations Net Neutrality rules are that it reclassifies broadband internet access as a telecommunications service, thereby making it fall under the control of the FCC. As we have seen in the past, when a government entity claims control of something, how that thing is used or not used by the public is controlled solely on the whim of the powers in charge at the time. Once Broadband connections fall under the FCC, the control of that service falls outside the purview of congress, meaning you have no say at all in what is done with it.

zenvelo's avatar

Doing away with net neutrality means that one can buy bandwidth without having to worry about it being overwhelmed by “garbage” traffic. One of the headaches of the ISP industry is maintaining a big enough network to meet demands. Fifteen years ago, you couldn’t find a 56kbs connection on AOL, the line would be busy and you’d have to settle for 14.4

And when cable connections first came in, people warned that if everyone on your block logged in at the same time, you couldn’t get enough bandwidth to check your email.

Get rid of net neutrality, you can stream your movie without being slowed by the kid next door watching free porn.

Demosthenes's avatar

Thank you for the answers. I’ve also heard the argument that net neutrality should be expanded to social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube, because right now they can control and filter access to content much like we fear Comcast and AT&T might do so. (We use the “private company” argument for Facebook and YouTube, but it’s invalid for Comcast and AT&T? Aren’t they private companies?). In the way that the internet is becoming a utility, maybe content platforms are too. But then that sounds like a slippery slope…

Anyway, it’s something to think about. Overall, I do support net neutrality, but I think some of its supporters are exaggerating the potential negative effects of not having it.

Muad_Dib's avatar

Imagine if your water company decided they could charge you extra to take a bath instead of washing in the sink.

Or if the power company could make you pay for a “refrigerator service package”.

ragingloli's avatar

Imagine your ISP making a deal with Amazon to prefer their streaming service, resulting in your Netflix streams being intentionally slowed down to a crawl.
Or imagine the ISP making a deal with the government to slow down all encrypted VPN connections, forcing you to browse without any protection from the NSA.

There is nothing good about not having net neutrality.

Solon's avatar

To say that no issue can ever be so one-sided is both fallacious and demonstrably false. And while you claim that worries about the elimination of net neutrality are alarmist, the fact is that they are based on things that are already happening.

But if you’re interested in the rationalizations that opponents of net neutrality trot out in favor of letting the foxes guard the henhouse, here are a few of the more popular ones:

Eliminating net neutrality would allow ISPs to charge both customers and companies (like Google or Netflix) extra money to ensure continued access. This money could in turn be used to upgrade network infrastructure.

Why this is bullshit: It is already extremely cheap for ISPs to deliver data from those who create it to those who request it. Furthermore, even as profits have risen and costs have lowered, ISPS have spent less and less on infrastructure. So they already have the money, but they won’t use it to build infrastructure they claim to want. In fact, the major ISPs pocketed $200 billion given to them by the government that was supposed to be spent on infrastructure improvements and then sued other companies to prevent them from using their own money to build their own improved infrastructure.

Eliminating net neutrality would make it easier to block access to objectionable material.

Why this is bullshit: ISPs should not be in the business of determining what is or is not objectionable. If we’re talking about illegal material, then they are already empowered to block it. But if we’re talking about material they don’t approve of, that’s exactly what people are afraid of when it comes to the elimination of net neutrality. The argument that is most often made here is that eliminating net neutrality will make it easier to prevent minors from accessing pornography. But there’s really no basis for this. For one, these types of filters are easily beaten, especially when they are implemented so far into the delivery process. For another, the UK laws that many point to as precedent exist alongside net neutrality protections, so there’s no reason to think that you can’t have one without the other. And of course, those laws were also used to block access to pornography deemed to be “non-conventional” regardless of age. So the end result is censorship, registries of porn users, and very little decrease in the access that minors have to pornography.

“Charging more for sites that use a lot of bandwidth allows ISPs to provide access to other sites for free.

Why this is bullshit: They don’t actually mean free. They mean at no increased cost. But that’s the way everything is under net neutrality: you pay for internet access, and all sites are supposed to be accessible at the same transfer rate. So we’d be paying more for less. Let’s suppose that some ISPs really were going to be altruistic and give free access to certain sites to anyone with a device capable of accessing the internet. The advantage of the internet is that it is a web (a world wide web, in fact). Partial access to a few sites that don’t use much bandwidth—many of which are just portals to other sites that require more bandwidth—robs users of the main advantage of using the internet. So as far as gifts go, this one is about as valuable as fool’s gold to an 1850s prospector.

Muad_Dib's avatar

@Solon – My Lord James, Earl Douglas, I presume?

Solon's avatar

@Muad_Dib Lord Murray, Earl Tullibardine, in fact.

Muad_Dib's avatar

Rats! I saw those arms are quartered into the 9th Earl of Douglas’ Garter plate. I’ll have to research Lord Murray! At first I was thinking you might be SCA, but I didn’t see that device in the Armorial, so I was left grasping for mundane arms.

Demosthenes's avatar

Thank you, @Solon, for your comprehensive answer. I get skeptical when an issue seems one-sided, but I understand that sometimes this may reflect reality.

Coat of arms avatars are the best ;)

Muad_Dib's avatar

As a student of the art of heraldry, I always like to see personal arms used correctly. So, for the sake of saving myself the disappointment, I’ll assume you are, respectfully, the heraldic heirs of Lords Murray and Blake.

snowberry's avatar

As I understand it, the FCC is supposed to govern it. I haven’t read up on it.

filmfann's avatar

Let’s say you live down the street from 3 people who are constantly streaming movies. They are using a lot of the bandwidth available to your area, so now you can barely stay connected when you want to play the latest Star Wars or WOW game.
Should the isp’s be allowed to slow down the high volume traffic from Netflix, so that you can play your game?
To say there is no down side to Net Neutrality shows you don’t understand the issues. It is very complicated, and not at all black and white.

Muad_Dib's avatar

I find the bandwidth argument to be specious.

The company advertises 60mbps speeds. I signed a contract with them to provide them money in exchange for 60mbps speeds. If they then fail to deliver 60mbps speeds due to the fact that their infrastructure cannot provide the advertised speed, that falls firmly under NOT MY PROBLEM.

No, the ISP should not be allowed to throttle the speeds they agreed to provide me in exchange for money I’ve paid them, because they have an infrastructure problem.

Solon's avatar

@filmfann Try reversing the argument. You’re streaming a movie, and two other people in your neighborhood start doing the same thing. Should the ISPs be allowed to slow down your traffic—possibly to speeds lower than the minimum you are paying for—so that your neighbor can watch their movie? Besides, if the ISPs had upgraded their infrastructure like they promised to do in exchange for the $200 billion they took from the government, the bandwidth competition problem would not exist (at least not in a way that customers would notice). Other countries have faster internet, less bandwidth competition, and net neutrality. That you do not realize these things can all coexist shows that you are the one who doesn’t understand the issues.

filmfann's avatar

@Solon Other countries have faster internet, less bandwidth competition, and net neutrality.

You don’t understand why other countries have faster internet. It is because the population is centered and crowded, therefore easier to supply a high speed signal to. In the U.S., we are spread out, and it is much more difficult to get high speed signal.
An answer would be fiber optics to every home, which is being done in many areas, but expensive to build in population centers, and much worse in small communities and outlying areas such as farmland.
I have built such networks, and I understand the roadblocks. Do you have any background in this?

Muad_Dib's avatar

Is it more than $200 billion expensive? Because that’s how much we’ve already paid for it not to happen.

Muad_Dib's avatar

Oh, and for what it’s worth, the #2 average internet speeds in the world are in Norway.

You can not tell me that Bumfuck, Nebraska is harder to run a line to than a frozen goddamn mountain tundra that spends 3 months a year in total darkness.

filmfann's avatar

Look at the population concentration in Norway. They are huddled. Is this too difficult for you?
And $200 billion is a lot of money, until you start splitting it up on electronics, cable, right of ways, land, and power and maintenance. This is expensive.

Muad_Dib's avatar

Except it was never used for anything.

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