California Neutrality Law Will Not Deliver

By Chloe Anagnos

Net neutrality rules do nothing to make internet access more fair. More regulations only create the perfect environment to encourage monopoly, making access to the wide web even more restricted and expensive.

Despite this reality, or perhaps in spite of it, major internet companies stood against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year when it decided to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules.

Could it be that the likes of Facebook, Google, and Netflix want to keep their tight control over the internet so that competitors can’t mess with their hold on the industry?

Regardless, the Golden State had no problem playing the crony capitalist game by passing its own series of net neutrality rules, prompting the Trump administration to announce it would sue.

"Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, announcing the legal action. "The Justice Department should not have to spend valuable time and resources to file this suit today, but we have a duty to defend the prerogatives of the federal government and protect our Constitutional order."

California’s new rule, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown over the weekend, made the state’s net neutrality law the toughest in the nation. But it will not produce the intended results.

Anything But Neutral

Claiming the rules help to maintain a “level playing field” online, supporters of the legislation say that restricting what companies can charge for its services will make access to the internet “more equal.” However, the real-world consequences could be quite the opposite, as strict regulations on how service providers can charge for different products will discourage investments and keep entrepreneurs from trying to compete with established companies.   

The result would be higher internet and cell phone prices, keeping the poor from having easy access to popular internet services — the very opposite of what freedom has provided internet users over the years.

Access to the internet has grown tremendously ever since its inception, becoming more widespread, faster, and more affordable to users worldwide. And that's all thanks to the free and open market activity on the web, not because regulators got involved.

Once you look at how the internet evolved thanks to the free environment that allowed it to grow, it’s difficult to conclude that imposing strict restrictions on how companies can go about charging for their service would boost the web’s evolution and not the other way around.

Instead of offering “neutrality,” what net neutrality does is to, indeed, pick winners and losers, as imposed rules ensure politics, not the marketplace, determine who gets what. While this means that, yes, some customers will be able to afford faster internet service, it doesn’t mean that other, more affordable types of internet service will cease to exist.

With net neutrality in place, companies with a lot at stake will focus on keeping a close relationship with lawmakers and regulators. In exchange, regulators will ensure the status quo remains unchallenged by putting up new barriers to entry to keep competitors from entering the picture.

It’s no wonder that small internet service providers, or ISPs, pleaded with the FCC to bring down Obama’s net neutrality rules once current chairman Ajit Pai took over. All the while the “Frightful Five” (Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft) pushed to keep net neutrality rules in place.

In the past, government officials created some of the worst issues for internet users while claiming to impose regulations precisely to fight them. What California has done was just that, to create the perfect environment for less, not more, internet access — by creating a law.

While the future of California’s net neutrality might be in jeopardy thanks to the federal government’s decision to fight back, the fact the state got this far shows that government, local or otherwise, has too much power over our lives. And it’s because government feels entitled to running everything that the privacy violations it carries out are seldom challenged.   

If the government got out of the business of meddling with our internet, it should stop trying to spy on our text messages, too.

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Chloe Anagnos

Chloe Anagnos is AIER's Publications Manager. She is a writer and digital marketer and has been an AIER contributor since 2017. Her work has been the subject of articles in FOX News, USA Today, CNN Money, and WIRED. She has been a writer, commentator, and panelist for media outlets around the country on subjects like political marketing, campaigning, and social media. Follow @ChloeAnagnos.