IPcentral Weblog
  The DACA Blog
  Institutions
     
  Tanks
     
  Blogs
     
  Mags
     

Monday, December 21, 2009

 
The "Problem of Proportionality" in the Debate over Net Neutrality
(previous | next)
 

Last week I commented on a severely one-sided FCC net neutrality hearing that featured a endless parade of horribles being prophesied by virtually every speaker. The litany of spooky stories became tedious and absurd. Everyone foretold of the impending doom that awaits unless government intervenes to save us from various corporate conspiracies to "silence" our voices. Unsurprisingly, evidence was in short supply. It was pure Chicken Little poppycock.

This got me thinking again about what I have referred to as the "problem of proportionality." I have discussed the problem of proportionality in the context of public policy debates about online safety and privacy, but it seems equally applicable to debates about net neutrality. Here's how I explained the "problem of proportionality" in an earlier essay:

let's think about how some of our lawmakers and media personalities talk about the Internet. If we were to judge the Internet based upon the daily headlines in various media outlets or from the titles of various Congressional or regulatory agency hearings, then we'd be led to believe that the Internet is a scary, dangerous place. That 's especially the case when it comes to concerns about online privacy and child safety. Everywhere you turn there's a bogeyman story about the supposed dangers of cyberspace. But let's go back to the numbers. While I certainly understand the concerns many folks have about their personal privacy or their child's safety online, the fact is the vast majority of online transactions that take place online each and every second of the day are of an entirely harmless, even socially beneficial nature. I refer to this disconnect as the "problem of proportionality" in debates about online safety and privacy. People are not just making mountains out of molehills, in many cases they are just making the molehills up or blowing them massively out of proportion.

Again, much the same is true of net neutrality. Indeed, it is even more true since actual net neutrality "incidents" are so hard to come by.

I was reminded of this recently when I was reading some stats posted over at the Verizon Policy Blog by Link Hoewing, Verizon's Assistant Vice President of Internet and Technology Issues. Link wrote, "every day over Verizon's network, 100 million people connect using a cell phone, landline phone or broadband connection. The amount of information they send back and forth is staggering:"


  • 1.7 billion text messages exchanged

  • 50 million video/pictures exchanged

  • 400 million e-mails received

  • 8.7 petabytes of video streamed--the equivalent of 4 million full-length movies

  • 1 billion phone calls connected


Indeed, those are staggering numbers. And I have seen similar numbers from other operators, although not quite as large as this.

But what I find most remarkable when I hear data about daily traffic volume is that all this activity is taking place without a peep about net neutrality "violations," you know, like those nefarious-minded corporate conspiracies to "silence" us by blocking speech or expression. Now, how can that be? After all, we don't have a net neutrality law on the books today. There's nothing stopping these carriers from engaging in the sort of behavior the worrywarts were predicting at last week's hearing.

Of course, the critics would counter with the old "it's-only-a-matter-of-time!" argument, or claim that the operators are on their best behavior right now because so many are watching for potential net neutrality violations. But there's no way to prove that one way or the other. It's all just conjecture at this stage. Regardless, the fact remains: trying to find actual net neutrality "violations" today is not just needle-in-the-haystack hard, it's darn near impossible.

The better explanation for why that is the case comes down to simple economics and sound business practices: (1) ISPs have no incentive to block traffic since they only make money make money by carrying more content, not less; and (2) angering customers and getting a bad rap with the press is really bad for business -- as in lost customers, lost shareholders, and therefore, lost profits.

So, it's important to bring a little sanity and proportionality back to debates about net neutrality. There's just no evidence supporting the horror stories bandied about about pro-regulatory critics. Billions of transactions are taking place online each and every day without any neutrality "violations" whatsoever.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:49 AM | Net Neutrality

Share |

Link to this Entry | Printer-Friendly | Email a Comment | Post a Comment(3)

Comments

The FCC's existing four principles, adopted in 2005, already prohibit the kind of blocking conduct at issue in Comcast at Madison River. So attributing the lack of violations to competitive business forces, and not the existing principles, is a stretch. At the same time, this calls into question the need for any new rules going beyond the existing principles. The new rule #5 clearly does so.

Posted by: Dave at December 21, 2009 4:26 PM

My brother recommended I might like this website.

He was entirely right. This submit truly made my day.
You cann't imagine simply how a lot time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

Posted by: ischemic heart disease at May 11, 2013 5:37 PM

Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all of us you actually recognize what you're talking approximately! Bookmarked. Kindly additionally seek advice from my website =). We may have a link exchange arrangement among us

Posted by: one heart at May 15, 2013 1:30 AM

Post a Comment:





 
Blog Main
RSS Feed  
Recent Posts
  EFF-PFF Amicus Brief in Schwarzenegger v. EMA Supreme Court Videogame Violence Case
New OECD Study Finds That Improved IPR Protections Benefit Developing Countries
Hubris, Cowardice, File-sharing, and TechDirt
iPhones, DRM, and Doom-Mongers
"Rogue Archivist" Carl Malamud On How to Fix Gov2.0
Coping with Information Overload: Thoughts on Hamlet's BlackBerry by William Powers
How Many Times Has Michael "Dr. Doom" Copps Forecast an Internet Apocalypse?
Google / Verizon Proposal May Be Important Compromise, But Regulatory Trajectory Concerns Many
Two Schools of Internet Pessimism
GAO: Wireless Prices Plummeting; Public Knowledge: We Must Regulate!
Archives by Month
  September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
  - (see all)
Archives by Topic
  - A La Carte
- Add category
- Advertising & Marketing
- Antitrust & Competition Policy
- Appleplectics
- Books & Book Reviews
- Broadband
- Cable
- Campaign Finance Law
- Capitalism
- Capitol Hill
- China
- Commons
- Communications
- Copyright
- Cutting the Video Cord
- Cyber-Security
- DACA
- Digital Americas
- Digital Europe
- Digital Europe 2006
- Digital TV
- E-commerce
- e-Government & Transparency
- Economics
- Education
- Electricity
- Energy
- Events
- Exaflood
- Free Speech
- Gambling
- General
- Generic Rant
- Global Innovation
- Googlephobia
- Googlephobia
- Human Capital
- Innovation
- Intermediary Deputization & Section 230
- Internet
- Internet Governance
- Internet TV
- Interoperability
- IP
- Local Franchising
- Mass Media
- Media Regulation
- Monetary Policy
- Municipal Ownership
- Net Neutrality
- Neutrality
- Non-PFF Podcasts
- Ongoing Series
- Online Safety & Parental Controls
- Open Source
- PFF
- PFF Podcasts
- Philosophy / Cyber-Libertarianism
- Privacy
- Privacy Solutions
- Regulation
- Search
- Security
- Software
- Space
- Spectrum
- Sports
- State Policy
- Supreme Court
- Taxes
- The FCC
- The FTC
- The News Frontier
- Think Tanks
- Trade
- Trademark
- Universal Service
- Video Games & Virtual Worlds
- VoIP
- What We're Reading
- Wireless
- Wireline
Archives by Author
PFF Blogosphere Archives
We welcome comments by email - look for a link to the author's email address in the byline of each post. Please let us know if we may publish your remarks.
 










The Progress & Freedom Foundation