On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a proposed rule to reclassify broadband Internet as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act. The draft’s release marks the beginning of a new chapter in the ongoing saga to re-impose network neutrality after the FCC’s Open Internet Order was struck down by the DC Court of Appeals last year — a push to force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to treat all traffic on the net equally, preventing them from charging for priority access.
While this principle of fairness may seem reasonable at first glance, the harsh truth is that not all traffic is created equally. Net neutrality’s aim to impose one-size-fits-all policy on the Internet threatens to slow the pace of technological innovation. Furthermore, subjecting ISPs to the same outdated regulations at telephone companies threatens to decrease online access for low-income individuals by subjecting ISPs to telecom taxes. Lawmakers should speak up against the FCC’s dangerous power grab before it’s too late.
Net neutrality would make sense in a world where all website traffic was equal. In the real world, however, popular sites like Netflix and YouTube receive significantly more traffic than others and, as a result, consume significantly more bandwidth. To be specific, Netflix and YouTube account for over half of all peak-hour download traffic, often leading to slower connection speeds across ISP networks.
As a result, ISPs like Comcast have asked some of the most notorious traffic hogs for payment so customers can enjoy priority streaming speeds on their sites — a reasonable request given the unreasonable amount of bandwidth they consume. Consequently, Netflix has coughed up the dough, resulting in a 66 percent increase in connection speed through Comcast’s network since January 2014. Net neutrality would kill such a mutually beneficial trade by forcing ISPs to treat websites like Netflix equally despite their unequal consumption.