I think one of the reasons I have been able to have a print column for the last 10 years is that I have an understanding of most of the readers. I have not lost “the common touch.” I am one of you. So when it comes to computers, I believe I am no different from most of you. I know how to turn it on. I know how to get and use the functions I need. After that, I am lost.
So whenever I have a question or a problem, I call the smartest computer person I know: my brother, Joe. I bet most of you have someone in your family or circle of friends you turn to. Were it not for my brother, doing the necessary research and writing this column every week would not be possible. So blame him.
So like most of you, I have been reading about “net neutrality.” Like most, I was of the belief that net neutrality means equality and fairness and sameness and does not allow the cable companies and the internet service providers to overcharge you. But in doing research for this column, I found out that nothing I was being told could be further from the truth. There is a book, “The Political Spectrum” by Thomas W. Hazlett. It is written for some one like me, meaning it is easy to understand. It is a history of the regulation of the telecommunications industry. This book gives the history of regulation of the entire spectrum: wireless, FM, AM, television, police band, air traffic control, etc.
What one finds out in reading the book is that the history of the telecommunications industry and the relationship between it and the government is that it is the history of government regulating it and impeding it, selling out to the highest bidder till it could no longer do so. To my surprise, I found out we could have had cellular communications in the ‘50s, that FM radio was delayed 20 years because of the power of AM broadcasters to shelve it.
One of the boldest lies we were told in selling us on net neutrality was in comparing it to Federal Express and Amazon. We were told FedEx delivers Amazon’s packages and they’re all treated the same. No package gets any preferential treatment. FedEx gets the packages, they deliver them. Yet for anyone who has used Amazon, you know this was a lie. I have used Amazon to buy DVDs and what I know when I order is you can choose your delivery speed; you can choose how many days, weeks; you can choose the kind of delivery you want and it all depends on how much you are willing to pay.
The same use be true for the internet before net neutrality. You wanted the fastest internet you can ask for. If the service provided you with what you were looking for, then you found out what it cost and if you agreed to the terms, you bought. If you don’t care about speed, you could go a cheaper route. The reality is that now net neutrality is misnamed. There’s nothing “neutral” about it. The government controls it. The government regulates it. Like all things the government regulates, it focuses on the lowest common denominator. More often than not, the lowest is not usually the best or the most practical.
Truth be told, government does not mean cheaper. The government doesn’t mean equal. The government doesn’t mean fair. What the government means is reduced services and less competence. Go back to the McCain legislation that was suppose to lower cable costs. Remember what happened after it became law? Within six months, prices for cable started to go up. This was because government regulation ignored the basics of economics, that it is competition that reduces prices; it’s competition that enables innovation, better services.
However, choice, other than when the topic is abortion, is anathema to the government centrist. Control is all they believe in. When it comes to the internet, I say why not let the market work? Why have the government, in reality, people who don’t know anything about any of this, like the people who wrote Obamacare, start regulating it? What happens is always what happens when government gets involved: Whoever gives politicians the most money is going determine how the internet operates, not the market. That’s why you should read the book I mentioned above and learn the history of cell phones and FM radio.
Let me bring this home with a story I heard last week on “The Rush Limbaugh Show.” Believe it or not, he is a tech geek. He told the story of how there would be no iPhone had “net neutrality been in effect.” I did not know this, but you may remember the iPhone back in 2007 and how for the first three years it was an AT&T exclusive. Steve Jobs had certain demands. One was he did not want the carrier name to be on the front or back of the device. Another was he did not want the carrier to put any of its own apps on the phone. Apple was going to control the whole process and AT&T was the only telecom that would give up total control.
If net neutrality had been the law of the land, that would not have been permitted. Apple would not have been permitted to offer the phone only to AT&T customers. That would have been discriminatory to Verizon and Sprint subscribers. However, because there was no net neutrality, Steve Jobs had the option to create the best operating circumstances for his product. Think about that next time you reach for your iPhone.
This is what I say. What say you?