The New York Times has published a screed with this title: The Internet Is Dying. Repealing Net Neutrality Hastens That Death.
Let me remind you of the basic rule of titling breathless articles: begin with the phrase “the death of” or “the end of.” When you read such a phrase, you can be sure that whatever it is, it is not dying. Whatever it has been in the past, it is likely to be in the future. It is not facing the end.
Here is the logic of the screed.
The internet is dying.Sure, technically, the internet still works. Pull up Facebook on your phone and you will still see your second cousin’s baby pictures. But that isn’t really the internet. It’s not the open, anyone-can-build-it network of the 1990s and early 2000s, the product of technologies created over decades through government funding and academic research, the network that helped undo Microsoft’s stranglehold on the tech business and gave us upstarts like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Netflix.
Nope, that freewheeling internet has been dying a slow death — and a vote next month by the Federal Communications Commission to undo net neutrality would be the final pillow in its face.
Net neutrality is intended to prevent companies that provide internet service from offering preferential treatment to certain content over their lines. The rules prevent, for instance, AT&T from charging a fee to companies that want to stream high-definition videos to people.
The phrase “preferential treatment” is easy to define: high bid wins. It is the organizational principle of the auction.
The mainstream media are Keynesian to the core. The fundamental principle of the free market is this: high monetary bid wins. It is the principle of the auction. Liberals hate most auctions. Yes, they like auctions of incredibly overpriced and incomparably ugly art. They don’t get upset when somebody pays $150 million to buy a piece of tripe painted by Picasso. That’s their kind of stupidity. They like it. But they don’t want the common people to have access to open markets. Open markets are only for the elite, in the view of America’s Left.
They hate the principle of high bid wins because it lets people buy what they want at prices they are willing to pay for. They hate it because people who don’t have enough money to buy everything they want, and who are therefore either unwilling or unable to pay for it, don’t get to buy. That’s what happens at every auction.
The screed officially favors underfunded producers. It doesn’t favor the consumers, however. Consumers determine what they are willing to pay for. So, in the opinion of the mainstream media, little people must be protected by the federal government. It’s the small start-up company that has not proven itself in the marketplace that must be protected. It is the hopeful outfit with little experience and not much money which must be protected.
Because net neutrality shelters start-ups — which can’t easily pay for fast-line access — from internet giants that can pay, the rules are just about the last bulwark against the complete corporate takeover of much of online life. When the rules go, the internet will still work, but it will look like and feel like something else altogether — a network in which business development deals, rather than innovation, determine what you experience, a network that feels much more like cable TV than the technological Wild West that gave you Napster and Netflix.
The author of course hates a monopoly. By monopoly, he means oligopoly. These oligopolies are highly competitive. Facebook competes against Twitter. Microsoft competes against Apple. Amazon competes against everybody. Facebook, Amazon, and Google are all planning to provide competing free Internet service to the Third World by means of high-altitude relay systems. They are going to make poverty-stricken people into lower middle-class people. This is monopoly in action. Oh, woe!
The five most valuable American companies — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft — control much of the online infrastructure, from app stores to operating systems to cloud storage to nearly all of the online ad business. A handful of broadband companies — AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon, many of which are also aiming to become content companies, because why not — provide virtually all the internet connections to American homes and smartphones.Together these giants have carved the internet into a historically profitable system of fiefs. They have turned a network whose very promise was endless innovation into one stuck in mud, where every start-up is at the tender mercy of some of the largest corporations on the planet.
What the abolition of net neutrality means is this: a new birth of freedom. It means that high monetary bids will continue to win. It means those who want to pay for a service will be able to buy it. It means that the market process will enable consumers and producers to get together and work out mutually beneficial deals. This thought appalls liberals. It is the worst possible world for liberals.