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Nick Gillespie Debates Net Neutrality with Tom Wheeler on NPR

Reason.com's editor in chief hashes it out with the FCC Chairman who passed net neutrality.

Yesterday, I taped a spirited conversation with former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler about net neutrality for WNYC's On the Media program.

My main points included the following: Net neutrality rules are unnecessary based on the actual history of the internet and set a dangerous prededent for government control of the 'net; the way in which net neutrality rules were implemented is a classic case of overreach by the administrative state; and to the extent we all agree that competition is the best way to create better, more varied products and services at ever-more-affordable prices, net neutrality is a complete diversion.

Here's the edited version of that debate, which was moderated by Bob Garfield.

For more Reason coverage of net neutrality, go here.

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On November 21, current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced a draft resolution to repeal the agency's 2015 net neutrality rules. I spoke to him hours after his announcement. Go here to read a full transcript and click below to listen to my interview with Pai.

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  • Knutsack||

    Where's Fist?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Right here.

  • chemjeff||

    Good for you Nick.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Can't listen at the moment. Did the Jacket have to step in for Nick? How quickly in the segment, and how many times was Nick connected to the Kochs?

  • ||

    ...which was moderated by Bob Garfield...

    And edited. By. Brooke.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Nice job Nick. Your exactly right that the the only reason to step in would be true anti-competitive monopolistic behavior. The ISPs I'm sorry all remember what Congress and other countries did to Microsoft over giving IE preference over Netscape and making backdoor deals with computers manufactures regarding software packages.

  • AlmightyJB||

    That is not the purview of the FCC and Congress has shown to be very serious about anti-competitive behavior, in fact, they usually go too far.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Furthermore, there is competition albeit not as much as I'm sure consumers would like, but certainly enough to ensure that they'll continue to try and gain share through better services. Wheeler is ridiculous with his evil corporation schtick.

  • Jickerson||

    What competition? Dial-up and satellite? Or are you talking about the areas that are lucky enough to have actual competition? A startling number of people in the country have to suffer under ISP monopolies and duopolies which constantly mistreat them. My only option for an ISP is Comcast, and I certainly don't consider dial-up or satellite to be serious competition (and neither does Comcast).

    The actual solution is to ban the exclusivity agreements and get rid of all the barriers to entry governments created.

  • Jim Logajan||

    I live in semi-rural Oregon. In the beginning we had DSL and was able to do Webex screen-sharing demos OK but used POTS for voice. Charter Cable had run wire to our place but only supplied TV, no Internet via them. Then I switched to Exede satellite and it was great. Great bit rate and hardly ever down (unlike the DSL). Was able to do Webex demos to customers around the globe from home for both screen shares and audio. That's how good it was. Only issue was latency due to it being geosynchronous. When a local WISP provider appeared I switched again and it was even better (think WiFi on steroids if you've never heard of Wireless ISPs.) Faster bit rates than Exede with low latency. (Had to run a cable to a tree to get a clear line of site to the mountaintop 5 miles away with their radio tower. WISPS in metro areas probably have shorter ranges to customers though more obstacles to line-of-sight.)

    For back-up we had 3G and now 4G Verizon via our iPhones. In all that time Charter STILL hasn't upgraded their local cable plant to support Internet.

    There are a dozen firms that have announced plans for Internet service from low Earth orbit satellite constellations. I fully expect them to be available in a few years.

    There is no shortage of competition and the market from the customer standpoint can only improve. What IS in short supply is a set of proper expectations.

  • Sevo||

    "What IS in short supply is a set of proper expectations."
    ^+ a LOT:

    "Whaa! I want everything cheap no matter where I chose to live and I'm sure the government can force people to deliver it for nothing!!!!
    And I'm happy with price-fixing since it does nothing to accomplish what I want, but it looks like the government is doing something!!!"

  • JeremyR||

    I live in a rural-ish part of St. Louis, my only option is satellite. Whee! $60 a month for 5 gigs. Whee!

  • HeteroPatriarch||

    We have satellite that can go anywhere in North America for that price, and it's unlimited.

  • Jim Logajan||

    Check to see if there is a WISP in your area. First try the wispa.org site that has a "Find a WISP near me" tool. Also try a Google search with keywords "wisp rural st louis".

    Otherwise check out Exede - they have $50/mo plans with 13 Gbytes and unlimited from 3 AM to 6 AM. Actually even HughesNet has better plans than you currently have. If you are on a contract with Hughes or another firm with early-termination cost, do the math to see if the savings gained by switching will cover the difference (Exede actually has lower teaser costs for the first three months that can help make up the difference.)

  • Doug Heffernan||

    Is Exede satellite better than HughesNet Gen5? I have Gen5 in the arizona dessert. I can use 30gb a month during the day and 50gb a month during overnight hours.

    Does Exede have better limits than this? I once had 7 Mbps dsl over copper, but centurylink has degraded the max progressively down, first to 5 Mbps, then 3 Mbps, and now 1.5 Mbps. They said they had to do this because more people (really only dozens in my neighborhood) signed up for dsl.

    I'm happy to have HughesNet but it is a pain to save video downloads for overnight. Plus, for major service video, downloading for later usually means having to break the drm.

  • Jim Logajan||

    Exede generally has better plans than Hughes, which is why I went with them, but since then they've both put up improved satellites. It's a competitive market so the best deal changes over time. It is now possible to buy a semi-unlimited plan from Exede if you're willing to pay the price.

    I knew our Internet access options were limited when we chose where to live. It was just DSL at that time. I work from home and needed Internet access and made my choice among many options and their trade-offs. I get the impression from the impassioned (and sometimes hysterical) cries of complaints that the complainants consider themselves either utterly helpless or are exceedingly passive in controlling their own fate in these matters. I cannot relate.

  • Warren||

    Well done Nick.
    Finally, a reasonoid lands their punches in a public debate.

  • Edward Henry Carson||

    Well said Nick, but let's be honest. Net Neutrality is theft, and Pai should just go full repeal, and fuck the public "comments".

    The Left has abandoned any pretext of commitment to property rights, so we shouldn't pretend to care about their voice. Roll it all back, repeal it all, eliminate every government employee, undo every regulation, and throw in jail anyone who protests.

    My right to property and to conduct my affairs to my own satisfaction trumps your "public interest". The public has no right to regulate the internet, or the airwaves, or anything at all.

    Pinochet would have good internet policy.

  • Calidissident||

    Throwing anyone who protests in jail doesn't sound very libertarian.

    Though given your comment about Pinochet I'm guessing that's not much of a concern for you.

  • josh||

    Maybe it was just listening to the edited version, but I feel like Nick could've done better. And I agree with him.

  • Sevo||

    Don't listen or watch 'broadcasts', but the summary ignores the pernicious effects of government price-fixing. It's always supposed to 'help the little' guy' and forever ends up with higher costs everywhere and always:
    Airlines, trucking, gasoline, etc.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "and to the extent we all agree that competition is the best way to create better, more varied products and services at ever-more-affordable prices,"

    So, not much of an extent, then.

  • Sevo||

    TtW (it was you interested in the food percentage from private lands, right?)
    Have not yet found the specific reference to Gorby 'allowing' the private food market as it contributed (some huge amount) to the food required in Russia and thereby preserved the USSR for a couple of more years.

    Have found:
    "Although occupying a mere 3% of the arable land, private farms accounted for nearly one quarter of Soviet farm output and nearly one third of meat products and vegetables".: "The Collapse of Communism", Lee Edwards, Editor, pg. 8. Un-dated, but "Post War" (Judt) says "3% of the [land] was yielding over a third of the SU ag output in the early '60s"

    Also: "In Hungary, by the early '80s, [...] 84,000 artisans [...] were meeting nearly 60% of the local demand for services"; Judt again, pg. 579.

    There are two or three other books which did not get margin notes and it might yet be in one of those, but that'll take a skim-read of them, and that's going to have to wait for a bit.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Hey, man, I'm impressed you've put as much effort into following up on this as you have. I appreciate you taking the time to look it up at all.

    Just serves to further illustrate the paradox of Marxism in practice: utterly dependent for survival on the thing it most despises. Like a Klansman with a GSW rolled into an ICU with a black trauma surgeon.

  • Sevo||

    Telcontar the Wanderer|12.2.17 @ 12:21AM|#
    "Hey, man, I'm impressed you've put as much effort into following up on this as you have. I appreciate you taking the time to look it up at all."

    I may yet have to eat those words ("70%"), but I do NOT post bullshit AFAIK.
    Most all of my books now 'grow hair'; marginal notes are on slices of yellow stickies hanging out the sides of the books, so the references listed were not hard to find.
    "Post War" is a pretty much regular reference for the Euro fuck-ups after WWII; check the 'hair' there first for evidence of the failure of socialism. It has 'hair' in extremis, and proof of socialism's failures in abundance.
    "Collapse..." was also one to early get 'hair'. The others were too early to grow hair, so they'll have to wait for a 'no holiday', 'no new books to read', 'no new product development' and 'no new marketing effort' time to get examination.
    I'm not going to get to it soon, but you might check "The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Empire", Coleman. Might well be in there and it's a good read besides.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "Most all of my books now 'grow hair'; marginal notes are on slices of yellow stickies hanging out the sides of the books"

    Sounds like you have a shelf full of Lannisters (or Rohirrim, more charitably) ;)

    I have added the 3 books to my list of future reading options.

  • chemjeff||

    I noted that Wheeler didn't really answer Nick's question: If I'm a film buff and I'm willing to pay more to have high quality movies streamed over my Internet pipeline, should the FCC forbid me from making that arrangement? Presumably Wheeler didn't answer because he knows the answer is yes. And I think Nick could have driven the point home even more forcefully: that the logic behind Net Neutrality as currently conceived is not that we all have great Internet at one low price, it is that we all have crappy Internet at one high price.

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