Any regulation, including those around net neutrality, should be put to a cost-benefit analysis. In this case regulation advocates come up short.
I am amenable to Congress passing a law specifically banning ISPs from blocking content, but believe that for everything else, including paid prioritization, we are better off taking a “wait-and-see” approach; after all, we are just as likely to “see” new products and services as we are to see startup foreclosure. And, to be sure, this is an issue than can — and should, if the evidence changes — be visited again.
What is worth far more attention is the state of competition in broadband generally: ISPs have lobbied for limits on public broadband in 25 states, and many local governments make it prohibitively expensive for new ISPs to challenge incumbents (and Title II requirements don’t help either). Increasing competition would not only have the same positive outcomes for customers that T-Mobile demonstrated, but would solve the (mostly theoretical) net neutrality issue at the same time: the greatest check on an ISP is the likelihood of an unsatisfied customer leaving.
I absolutely support regulation of ISPs and the preservation of the neutrality (at least in terms of blocking content), I just think we should stick to ex-post instead of ex-ante until there is compelling evidence of systematic abuse.
The question that must be grappled with, though, is whether or not the Internet is “done.” By that I mean that today’s bandwidth is all we all never need, which means we can risk chilling investment through prophylactic regulation and the elimination of price signals that may spur infrastructure build-out … But what if we aren’t done? What if … all kinds of unimagined commercial applications? I certainly hope we will have the bandwidth to support all of that!
Who, though, will build that bandwidth? … And yet, the fact that wired broadband in particular is a natural monopoly remains, raising the question of how you incentivize investment in ever faster broadband?
These tradeoffs are brutally difficult.
What is not at all helpful, though, is framing these trade-offs as moral choices. It is to society’s detriment that this really rather esoteric issue has become so tribalistic in nature: how can we properly evaluate and balance the trade-offs we need to make in issue after issue if everything is cast as good versus evil?