[By Nic Lindh on Friday, 20 February 2015]
Last Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015, my hometown paper The Arizona Republic printed an amazingly harebrained editorial arguing against net neutrality, which I contested on this blog.
But it seems net neutrality is a big enough talking point for the GOP these days that they had to go back to the well once again with Why Phoenix needs ultra-fast Internet.
Here’s the sub head: “Our View: Fears that rich corporations will rule the Internet are best answered by building a bigger pipeline.”
And boy howdy, it goes full histrionic against net neutrality:
In nearly all respects, this planned regulatory scheme is a radical and destructive proposition. By enacting industry controls designed in the 1930s to regulate railroads, the FCC drastically would refashion the most dynamic engine of wealth creation of this generation into… a utility. A federally controlled tool shaped according to the whims of politicians and bureaucrats.
This plan for so-called “net neutrality” is a myopic, investment-stifling solution in search of a problem in all but one theoretical respect:
Especially in the residential market, the Internet pipeline as it exists today is too narrow, too short on bandwidth. Absent infrastructure improvements, in the not-too-distant future, the question of how to accommodate all the video-saturated uses planned for the Internet will stop being merely theoretical.
“A federally controlled tool shaped according to the whims of politicians and bureaucrats” most certainly deserves a golf clap: fitting “federal”, “tool”, “politicians” and “bureaucrats” into that short of a sentence really should win you some sort of Tea Party Scrabble prize.
So, good job.
Unfortunately the premise of this editorial is completely wrong, as anybody who has paid any amount of attention to the Internet well knows.
The problem is not, most emphatically not that there isn’t enough capacity on the Internet. The problem is that the carriers want to be able to extract blackmail money from innovative content creators to not slow down their content.
I don’t know how to put it more bluntly.
Speed increases are great—personally I can’t wait to see the things an order of magnitude higher Internet speeds will make possible and what companies will emerge from that shift. But speed increases will not take away the threat of carriers throttling content creators. And as speeds increase, the sizes of the content that gets pushed across the Internet also increases.
A history lesson: In 1991 I downloaded the shareware game Solaris. It was (I think—it was a long time ago, obviously) about 600 kilobytes. It took eight hours to download. Which was worth it—it was an awesome game. Today the average home page is three times that size and pops onto your phone in less than a second. That’s called progress.
So, Republic editorial board, it’s not a matter of increase the speed and then the problem goes away. Once the speed increases, the size of the content goes up. It always goes up. And the pathetic groveling for Google to magically come in and solve The Problems in the Name of the Market goes against the reality that the carrier market—or lack thereof—is the problem.
Google is pushing Google Fiber to force the incumbent carriers to up their game because the current market is not a market—it’s a monopoly or duopoly and Google is trying to disrupt it. How one huge company fighting the entrenched interests of an existing market means that the invisible hand of the market is working is difficult to comprehend.