Everybody likes freebies. New York renters often seek apartments advertised with “utilities included.” Why? So they can run their air conditioners 24/7.
Similarly, a lot of people are pushing for something called “Net neutrality.” We must guarantee a “free and open Internet,” they say.
Sounds good. After all, “free” is a good deal, if you can get it. But “free” comes at a cost. “Not having to pay for it” can become “paying through the nose” pretty quickly.
Here’s the problem: The rise of VoIP, streaming video and audio, and similar broadband luxuries has strained the Internet. Regulating the Net for “neutrality” prevents price and quality-of-service discrimination by owners of the Net’s infrastructure.
Might as well require all landlords to provide all utilities “free” . . . distributing the costs of extra usage via basic rent charges. That would be “Apartment neutrality.”
It would also be a big waste, and not just of electricity.
When suppliers of goods aren’t allowed to price and move product to their advantage, we get something like the “tragedy of the commons.” The term comes from the medieval commons, a field that all villagers could use. They were, historically, overgrazed. Devastated. Hence the need to divvy up the fields into private plots, allowing trade to increase wealth, to the benefit of all.
U.S. regulators, tackling Net neutrality this month, should be wary of laying waste to the Net in the name of “openness.” Never confuse “free” of price with freedom itself.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.