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Forbes: ‘Net neutrality is a dumb idea’

Published May 21st, 2014 9:05AM EDT
Net Neutrality FCC Proposal

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Where do I even begin with this one?

The Federal Communications Commission voted last week to move forward with its controversial net neutrality plan, which seems to be designed specifically to ensure that the Internet is not kept neutral. Instead, the plan allows for the creation of Internet “fast lanes” so that Internet service providers can charge companies more for faster connections to end users.

If you oppose the new plan, there is action you can take. The FCC’s proposal is now in a period where open comments will be taken into account before the FCC creates a final set of rules. Those who see the slippery slope created by the FCC’s proposal can make their voices heard by reading the plan and submitting a public comment that addresses specific problems with the proposal.

If you support the plan, you can also be heard… by writing a column for Forbes.

Gene Marks blogs for The New York Times. He also owns a technology consulting firm and writes columns for both and Forbes. He is clearly an intelligent person, so we’re not sure exactly what happened to his latest offering, titled “Why ‘Net Neutrality’ Is A Dumb Idea.”

The FCC’s new net neutrality plan is already ruining the Internet by preventing technology startups that rely on fast Internet connections from getting funding. Imagine YouTube never came to be because its founders were unable to secure funding.

If the plan goes through as-is and becomes a law, it will likely ruin the Internet in a number of other ways. Large companies with deep pockets will have a huge advantage over smaller companies that can’t afford to pay for premium connections. It will be inevitable. Consumers will also be forced to pay more for services, since these large companies will need to recoup costs associated with these fast lanes.

But apparently, real net neutrality is a “dumb idea.”

“Wouldn’t it be great if a two bedroom, 2,000 square foot apartment on Park Avenue cost the same as one in Queens?” Marks wrote in his latest Forbes column. “Or if a front row ticket to a Broadway show cost the same as one in the mezzanine? Wouldn’t it be great if you could buy a new BMW for the same amount as a new Hyundai? Or if the price of a Harvard education were equal to one from your local community college? These things are priced differently. They are not neutral. Nothing is neutral in a free market economy.”

He continued, “Which is why ‘net neutrality’ is a dumb idea.”

This is the basis for his argument, it seems. Americans live in a free market economy so nothing should be regulated — regardless of something’s necessity, regardless of the absence of true competition, and regardless of how severely companies want to gouge their customers.

Marks goes on to make a number of questionable arguments. For example, he says real net neutrality rules will hurt big companies like Comcast and Verizon, which employ hundreds of thousands of Americans. This would be a terrific argument if it were true, but alas. Comcast’s revenue grew about 14% to $17.4 billion in the first quarter this year, and its operating income climbed more than 16% to $3.57 billion. In other words, it looks like the ISP is doing just fine without fast lanes.

Perhaps worst of all, Marks admits that not having net neutrality guidelines will result in increased costs for companies, and those increased costs will be passed down to consumers. But that’s ok, he explains, because it probably won’t cost consumers that much more.

Shoot me.

“When Netflix had its scrap with Comcast a few months ago over access and speed of delivery, they wound up paying more for the privilege,” he wrote. “Was the cost ultimately passed down to their consumers? Yes. Not to their existing customers (we pay $7.99 a month) but to new customers, who now have to suffer – brace yourself – a one or two dollar monthly increase for the service. A year’s worth of Netflix could cost a new user up to $120! What a catastrophe! If Netflix wants you as a customer they will have to justify their increased price by providing great content. And the best part: the government hasn’t been involved. It’s a free market. You choose.”

Marks’s full column is linked below in our source section.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.