Reading this Ars Technica piece, I’m walking away with two things:
- First, it’s not clear whether so-called net neutrality hurts or helps investment. Different studies show different results. There isn’t consensus. In fact, both sides seem to agree that it’s not very clear, in part because there are too many variables. The side in favor of regulation says, Because it doesn’t hurt infrastructure investment, we should have net neutrality. The side against regulation says, Because it doesn’t help infrastructure investment, we should not have net neutrality. Where the burden of proof lies depends on whether you lean towards wanting a big government or a small government.
- Second, there’s disagreement on what metrics are important. Both sides have metrics. The side in favor of net neutrality says that the 12 million comments are important. The side against it says that the millions of Americans who don’t have fast Internet are important.1
Meanwhile, I’m noticing that the side in favor of regulation is saying to the other side, Because you are not giving enough weight to the metrics that I consider important, you are a blind ideologist. Nick Heer said exactly this yesterday:
Pai is pretty dead-set that he’s going to destroy net neutrality — logic, reasoning, and facts be damned. That’s what blind ideology looks like.
Do you suppose that Ajit Pai thinks he himself is a blind ideologist? Of course not. He thinks he’s making the best decision with the data before him. That’s the great thing about a free Republic; different people can look at the same set of data and come up with different conclusions. The temptation will always be to look at the group that arrives at a different conclusion and accuse them of “blind ideology” but that’s a cop-out; the reality is usually more complex than that.
Both of these metrics are interesting. The twelve million comments were generated en masse by audiences driven by large websites and the major media, the owners and cultures of which are disproportionately left-leaning compared to the overall public. What if instead these gatekeepers were disproportionately right-leaning and encouraged their audiences to dissent against the regulation? If you reframed the question as Should the government be involved in regulating the Internet? instead of Do you believe in the open web?, those 12 million comments would have looked a whole lot differently. Nobody is against the open web, but many are against a big overreaching government. The populace is easily swayed. Most of those 12 million comments were written by people who only have the slightest inkling of the issues involved and made their comments by virtue of brand equity endorsement. As far as the millions of Americans with slow Internet are concerned, this is also a two-way street. Nobody who is for the regulation actually wants Americans to have slow Internet. But was net neutrality supposed to fix this problem? Advocates never claimed that this was one of its goals, as far as I know. ↩︎