Net neutrality, millennials, and Comcast

Millennials hate Comcast and love net neutrality [a clever misnomer, that one]. What are they going to think when they find out Comcast loves net neutrality?

“Net Neutrality” is a term coined by law professor Tim Wu of the University of Virginia in 2003.  Before I go further, do you remember that William F. Buckley famously said he would rather be governed by 100 people chosen at random from the phone book than be governed by the faculty of Harvard Law School?  Good advice. When Millennials find out what net neutrality really is, I hope someone tells them it was the brain child of a law professor.

“Net neutrality” is a term about as honest as the “Affordable Care Act,” or “Social Security Trust Fund,” or “No Child Left Behind.”  It is not neutral, it will not make Comcast or Time Warner more responsive to their customers, it won’t lower anyone’s Comcast bill*, they wouldn’t love it as they do if it were going to do anything of the kind.

Net neutrality is simply going to regulate the internet like the phone company used to be regulated.  Was phone service better when it was regulated?  Was it cheaper? Was long distance better and cheaper? Or did phone service and long distance get better and cheaper after it was de-regulated? Was your local phone company easy to deal with when it was regulated, or is it better now that you don’t have to give them your business if you don’t want to?  Was it better when you couldn’t even buy a telephone, you had to rent if for monthly fee?  Or is it better now that you can buy your phone as Costco or Rite-Aid for a price barely more than the monthly rent used to be?

Well, this is history that occurred before Millennials were born so they know nothing of it. They’re going to find out, though. They’re going to get what they think they want.  They’re going to get it…good and hard.

For why Comcast and Time Warner don’t mind being regulated get some background on the phenomenon economists call “regulatory capture.” Check out Gabriel Kolko’s 1965 book Railroads and Regulation — 1877-1916 on why the big railroads welcomed the formation of the Interstate Commerce Commission in1890 that made shippers giddy because, finally, the railroads were going to be regulated. Nineteenth century shippers were later surprised when their bubble was burst, as todays Millennials are going to be when they find out why Comcast and Time Warner are not only not afraid of FCC regulation, they welcome it.

They’re nothing in it for me, except that it’s going to be fun to see Millennials trying to screw Comcast et al., and instead setting themselves up to get screwed by Comcast et al., and the government.

*As of now, you can probably get your Comcast bill lowered simply by calling Comcast and telling them you are thinking of switching to DSL or Satellite. They’ll offer to reconfigure your service in a way that will lower your bill, or find some special offer that you can take advantage of.  After net neutrality is fully implemented will that still be possible? For anyone old enough to remember, do you think you could have ever got a lower phone bill back when it was regulated by the government?  Comcast will be the same way once it and Time Warner have successfully “captured” the regulator.  Comcast is spending about $18 Million a year in lobbying fees and it’s not because they want better government for Millennials. Do you know who David Krone is?  He’s Harry Reid’s chief of staff. His prior job as was as senior vice-president of Comcast. The head of the FCC is Tom Wheeler, a former top lobbyist for cable and wireless companies.

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