For decades, the Internet has empowered entrepreneurs to turn bright ideas into billion-dollar enterprises. Google, Facebook, and countless others were once scrappy startups whose growth benefited from the openness of the Net. Since 1996, Internet service providers (ISPs) have invested over $1 trillion in broadband expansion. The Internet keeps getting better, much to the benefit of global economies and consumers.

So what is the problem? In short, there isn’t one. But net neutrality hardliners want a solution in search of a problem: heavy-handed government regulation to protect startups and keep the Internet “open.” In a recent discussion at Fordham Law School, TF’s Geoffrey Manne debunked the notion that monopoly-style, government regulation would simply “protect the little guy”:

“I definitely take issue with the characterization of much of this,” said Mr. Manne. The parties that advocate for more regulation of carriers include rich and powerful Internet companies, he said, arguing “there is no reason to think they are advocates for the little guy. The problem with common carrier regulation is that it locks the Internet into a kind of status quo. It will actually impede innovation.”


A non-neutral Internet favors the rise of new pricing models, according to Mr. Manne. Already, there are some cases in which mobile carriers wave data charges when customers use their phones to access particular apps, panelists noted. In poor areas, that may be better than no access at all, according to Mr. Manne. “I would choose a closed system over no system. That may be the choice,” he said.


Mr. Manne also argued that net neutrality would hurt startups that want to differentiate themselves by providing faster service, and that absent that option, they will have to make themselves known through marketing and advertising—perhaps to the benefit of the big consumer Internet companies that control major digital ad networks.

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