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Preserve Net Neutrality: All Data is Created Equal

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Live Transcript
  • What does Kroger have to do with net neutrality?

    Nick Gillespie debates Mitchell Baker and Tom Wheeler on the necessity of internet regulations by invoking the Craigslist killings and shopping at Kroger.

  • Audience Question: How is shopping for internet different than shopping for cereal?

    Tom Wheeler and Mitchell Baker debate Nick Gillespie on the number of grocery stores, versus the number of ISPs, that are available to Americans.

  • Net neutrality around the world

    Mitchell Baker, Tom Wheeler, and Nick Gillespie think beyond the U.S. and consider net neutrality in Canada, Brazil, India, and Europe.

  • Is net neutrality a First Amendment issue?

    The debaters disagree on whether net neutrality is a protection of, or an attack on, free speech.

  • The FCC won’t let Nick be

    Nick Gillespie and Tom Wheeler discuss BitTorrent, Comcast, and the FCC.

Debate Details

What if a single policy could impact American democracy, culture, and competitiveness?  What if that policy might either empower citizens and consumers, or burden them?  And what if the decision on that policy sparked a frenzy of legislative proposals, judicial challenges, and citizen outrage, all across the country?

 

The Federal Communications Commission’s decision to end net neutrality regulations has fueled a national debate about the future of the internet.  Adopted in 2015, net neutrality promised to preserve the democratic spirit of the web by ensuring that all data would be treated equally, regardless of where it originated. Under these regulations, internet service providers (ISPs) such as Verizon, Comcast and AT&T, the corporate giants who deliver the internet into our homes, could supply web infrastructure, but could not preference how data passed through it.  Denying them that power, supporters argue, remains critical to ensuring that users and content-creators can discover ideas and information without censorship, or charges, from these prospective gatekeepers.  After all, no person should have to pay for every video streamed on YouTube; no startup should be hobbled against established companies who buy faster access to consumers; and no minority voice should have its ideas throttled by wealthier interests.

 

On the other hand, net neutrality opponents argue that the genius of the Internet has been its individually driven, organic development, free from the heavy hand of so-called net neutrality.  These burdensome regulations constitute dangerous governmental overreach, stifle innovation, and spike costs for both consumers and providers.  The result, they maintain, will be a less interesting, less democratic, less innovative web.  Moreover, Americans will enjoy uninterrupted access to their favorite sites – without net neutrality – because ISPs make more money from an open, rather than closed, internet.  Consequently, the backlash against the FCC’s decision is overblown, and ending net neutrality is the right policy for the future of America’s internet.

The Debaters

For the motion

Mitchell Baker

Mitchell Baker

Chairwoman, Mozilla Foundation & Mozilla Corporation

Mitchell Baker is chairwoman of the Mozilla Corporation and Foundation. She is a strong advocate for the open web and open source applications and... Read More

Tom Wheeler

Tom Wheeler

Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School and Former Chairman, FCC

Tom Wheeler is a businessman, author, and former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. He led the FCC efforts that resulted in the adoption... Read More

Against the motion

Nick Gillespie

Editor at Large, Reason

Nick Gillespie is editor at large of Reason, the libertarian magazine of "Free Minds and Free Markets," co-host of the Reason Podcast, and... Read More

Michael Katz

Michael Katz

Professor, Berkeley & Former Chief Economist, FCC

Michael Katz is a professor at Berkeley and a member of the Economic Analysis and Policy Group at the Haas School of Business. He was previously the... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Americans rely on the internet to learn, work, and play. It must be protected, and regulated, as a modern-day public utility.

  • Net neutrality is essential to a free and open internet. By preventing service providers from blocking content and mandating that all data must be treated equally, these regulations keep the web free from digital gatekeepers and promote a true exchange of ideas online.

  • Without net neutrality rules, major companies like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T could implement policies that favor their own companies over competitors, and disadvantage startups and small organizations that don’t have the means to compete for access to internet users. 

  • Net neutrality benefits consumers. By prohibiting “pay-to-play” pricing structures that require consumers to pay more for premium services like audio and video streaming, net neutrality ensures content on the web is equally accessible to all, not only to those who can afford it.

     

Against The Motion
  • In 2015, the FCC set out to solve a problem that didn’t exist. The internet hadn’t been corrupted by nefarious forces or restricted to only those willing to pay high fees. These Obama-era net neutrality regulations represent little more than unnecessary government overreach.

  • Internet service providers are not a threat to democracy. Before the 2015 regulations took effect, consumers were able to access content and ideas online without fear of digital gatekeepers. Market demand is a better assurance the web will remain open and democratic than politically motivated government regulators. 

  • Net neutrality regulations are bad for business. By limiting potential revenue streams, these rules deter internet service providers from investing in broadband networks and working to bring high-quality, affordable internet access to consumers around the nation.

  • Not all data is created equal. Net neutrality regulations, which limit the types of services available to consumers, drive up the cost of internet access for consumers around the nation and deprive rural and low-income communities of connectivity options that would best suit their needs.

     

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The Research

The Research

The economic case that net neutrality was always fundamentally bad for the internet

November 29, 2017

In an interview with Quartz, Michael Katz argues, “I think Tim Wu coming up with the name net neutrality was really brilliant because it sounds really good … But it is a really bad idea at a fundamental level.” 

The Wired Guide to Net Neutrality

Klint Finley
March 1, 2018

“Everything you need to know about the struggle to treat information on the internet the same—ISPs shouldn't be able to block some sorts of data and prioritize others.”

 

Why Net Neutrality Was Repealed and How It Affects You

Keith Collins
December 14, 2017

“Without rules prohibiting paid prioritization, a fast lane could be occupied by big internet and media companies, as well as affluent households, while everyone else would be left on the slow lane.”

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