Net neutrality sucked the oxygen out of Internet policy for a decade, turning every discussion of Internet policy into a debate over the best way to ensure the Internet remained true to this newly discovered foundational principle of the Internet. But these promises were hollow because net neutrality only applied to one part of the Internet, data transmission between consumers, Internet-based businesses, and Internet Service Providers.
Net neutrality is an odd issues because it correctly identifies some problems that do take place on the Internet – blocking, throttling, and leveraging platform dominance – while attributing them to the wrong parties. I
To the extent that advocates have praised the Hooton study, they have done so by taking its claims at face value without examining the methodology or by simply expressing glee that Hooton got the “right answer” that comports with their project.
None of the proposals for ISP regulation or platform regulation currently in the mix are very good. If the Internet is good for anything, it’s a great disruptor. Is is too much to ask it to disrupt its own policy frameworks toward the goal of producing more of the good and less of the bad?
It’s reasonably clear that Internet regulation is now blowing up in our faces: Congressional Democrats are intent on raising the 2015 OIO from the dead, but for reasons that appear to be totally political. Meanwhile, data brokers make hay with our browsing histories and nobody but the Europeans seems to care.
The only reason for Congress to turn the clock back to 2015 is to enjoy the comfort of a well-worn path. This is cowardly and counter-productive; the rank and file should say “no” and demand a more serious approach to Internet regulation from their party leadership.
Net neutrality was created at a time when the only large firms conducting Internet business were ISPs. It was sensible for lawmakers to focus on ISPs in 2003. But today’s Internet is dominated by non-ISP edge services that routinely abuse personal information. Internet law need to leap forward to the present day.
Net neutrality was promoted by Silicon Valley to take policy makers’ eyes off the massive dossiers of personal data its major players assembled from their platforms. Now that the public is aware of this (very real) behavior, the claims of possible harms to consumers from the lack of net neutrality regulations are much less compelling.
If you’re a fan of books on tech and tech policy this is a particularly good time for you because so much new stuff is hot off the presses. Here’s a short list of the books in my reading queue at the moment, along with a couple of longish journal articles.