The grim future of a world without net neutrality

The government won’t push for it. The existing near-monopolies have no incentive to change. So who steps up? Google, of course. Google’s plan to offer internet services at the blisteringly-fast speeds of up to 1 GB/s could finally revolutionize the American broadband network. As a bottleneck for innovation, the archaic state of internet infrastructure obviously needs improvement. South Korea leads the world in internet speeds, with a 100 Mbps fiber optic line scheduled to come online nationwide this year. The United States didn’t make the top ten – it was 18th in the world with an average speed of 3.9 Mbps.

But no one will act (even though Google’s been prodding telecom companies), and the government won’t push anyone to act.

The risks of lagging behind are comparable to net neutrality in terms of stifling new developments, which is why it may seem weird to call for more regulation. But the regulation that would help only need set a baseline for acceptable quality and service.

This kind of wide push for faster internet service works on a number of levels:

  1. It allows for new growth, research, and innovation.
  2. It keeps the U.S. on equal footing with the rest of the world.
  3. It allows us to avoid ridiculously hyperbolic nightmare scenarios like the “bandwidth caps” Mark Cuban envisions (and I won’t even begin to take apart his prediction of our computerless-future).
  4. New infrastructure work, especially as part of a comprehensive federal plan, will a) allow/mandate simultaneous rural development, always a must in the expanse of the United States, and something any corporation is loathe to take on of its own volition (the per capita subscription rate really can’t justify it, but thanks to equal representation in the Senate is a necessity nonetheless), and b) create jobs. Let’s also not forget those 93 million Americans without broadband access at all, whom Cuban’s market-based solutions have clearly left behind.

As Google is proving though, the federal government has little interest in sweeping technology improvements across the country. A Reaganesque privatization this is not. The government has merely ceded responsibility to the private sector yet again.