Steven Crowder finally delivers his long-awaited video on Net Neutrality — and it’s worth the wait. Steven traveled to Austin for the annual SxSW convention to hear the arguments for government intervention in Internet bandwidth allocations, and comes away less than impressed. It’s a debate drenched in technobabble, but the basic principles are clear and unmistakable. Who gets to control the operation of private networks — those who own them, or the government?
This is a debate drenched not only in technobabble, but analogies as well. That’s because it’s difficult for most people to grasp the technical details, and so both sides have to rely even more on argument by analogy than we usually see in politics … and that’s saying something. Steven’s analogy to the postal service is the most apt in this video. Net Neutrality, if applied to postage and shipping, would force the USPS to treat a 50-pound barbell the same as an envelope of less than one ounce. That’s what’s meant by content neutrality.
But the analogy is incomplete; thanks to its quasi-governmental role, people more or less expect Congress to control USPS policy. The better expression of this analogy would be that not only would the USPS have to charge the same rate for the barbell and the envelope, but so would FedEx, DHL, UPS, and every private shipping company and courier service in the country. That’s Net Neutrality, which dictates network management policies to private owners of the networks.
That is why the analogy used by the Net Neutrality supporter who engages with Steven is inapt. Government sets speed limits on highways because government owns the highways. Governments don’t set speed limits on private roads. Furthermore, government charges those 18-wheelers a lot more money to operate on the highways than it does normal, non-commercial drivers in different ways, such as licensing, fees, regulations, and taxes. They do that because the big trucks incur more cost to the government, thanks to wear and tear on the roads, enforcement costs, and safety concerns. So why shouldn’t private networks have the same options, even if (as Steven points out) they’ve never used them in the past?