The USFG should reject Net Neutrality.
Greetings! I am quite interested in the concept of net neutrality, hence our topic: The United States Federal Government should reject Net Neutrality. I will be assuming the Pro/For side in this debate; thus, my opponent will be arguing in favor of net neutrality.
The burden of proof will be net benefits.
My thanks to whomever accepts this debate; you may use your first round either to accept and present your arguments, or simply to accept the debate-your choice.
I hope to have a lively debate!
-Network neutrality, or net neutrality as it is more commonly known, is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differently by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or modes of communication. Essentially, the stance that ISP’s (Internet Service Providers, such as Comcast, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.) shouldn’t be able to charge users based on what sites they want access to, what type of content they view, whether or not they play online games that use high amounts of content, etc. One of the foremost arguments proponents of net neutrality present is that of an open internet.
- Open Internet-where policies such as equal treatment of data and open web standards allow those on the Internet to easily communicate and conduct business without interference from a third party.
-Closed Internet-where established corporations or governments favor certain uses; may have restricted access to necessary web standards, artificially degrade some services, or explicitly filter out content.
[1, 2, 3]
In this debate, I am going to clearly show that net neutrality does not, in fact, result in a more open internet, but actually takes steps towards a closed internet.
1. Net Neutrality Stifles Innovation
-Net neutrality proponents rally to phrases like “equal treatment” and “ending discrimination in transmitting content,” all of which sound positive, but in reality threaten innovation, efficiency, and the expansion of Internet access.
-First, is simply isn’t accurate to treat all Internet content equally. An online calculator, a funny home video, and an e-Book all use similar amounts of Internet space comparably, yet are obviously not equal in importance, and should not be treated as such. Second, what precisely does it mean to ‘end discrimination in transmitting content?’ Net neutrality proponents would argue that to be able to charge more for one type of content than another is discrimination. Once again, it is often the case that the contents ARE different, and thus rightfully treated so. Playing PTP (peer-to-peer) games online use massively greater amounts of content than does, say, a simply Google search; net neutrality would treat the two of these equally. So, for example, let’s say we have a house with six people, all of whom share the same Internet. Four of them love playing PTP games, to the point where the other two house members cannot even complete a simple Google search without their Internet being obscenely slow because of the other four members. Now let’s expand this example to an entire community. ISP’s being able to charge based on the amount of content users consume simply means that consumers are paying proportional to what they want, instead of everyone paying the same amount but using disproportionate amounts of content.
-In fact, similar regulations are in place in Europe. The result can be clearly seen: they have raised prices and limited consumer access to the Internet. And make no mistake, this isn’t because the service is better over there; broadband services are significantly cheaper in the US despite the fact that we already provide high-speed service at more than double the rate of European countries . Quite simply, regulations stifle the market and economy. What net neutrality is pushing for will result in regulation levels on technology companies on par with that on water and telephone companies, eliminating their ability to innovate in the market.
2. Net Neutrality Actually Stifles Freedom of Speech
-Another argument presented by defenders of net neutrality is that it ‘protects freedom of speech’ through unrestricted Internet access. This is patently false; first off, a lack of net neutrality hasn’t caused a restriction of freedom of speech. Allowing ISP’s to charge differing amounts for different amounts of usage is not going to restrict the freedom of speech of users; you don’t have to pay for content levels for PTP games in order to post online or send an email (the ‘freedom of speech’ claimed to be violated without net neutrality).
-Second, anyone claiming that new net neutrality regulations through the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) will result in ‘greater freedom of speech’ is frankly either lying or greatly deluded. The FCC isn’t exactly in the business of promoting freedom of speech. In fact, they do quite the opposite-the FCC censors content it feels inappropriate, harmful, and virtually anything else it decides it doesn’t want available. The FCC has never and will never stand for freedom of speech. Net neutrality regulations simply give the FCC, and subsequently the government, more control over the Internet and what exactly is available to us. In the pursuit of a freer Internet, we would actually be creating a less free one. An extreme example of this is China’s strict regulation of communication companies, which has choked off many citizen’s Internet access and significantly reformed the Internet available to the rest. Swiss analyst Gianluigi Negro argues that “under the guise of allegedly ensuring a free and open Internet, some Americans may unwittingly be on the road to ceding power to forces that can use the Internet against them, as is seen in China every day” . Don’t misunderstand, this is not to suggest that the institution of network neutrality laws will have the immediate or definite result of turning America into a communistic nation. However, each new network neutrality law creates an even stronger precedent for government control and regulation of the Internet and subsequent available content.
3. Net Neutrality Infringes On Competition
-Advocates of net neutrality such as Lawrence Lessig have raised concerns about the ability of broadband providers to use their last mile infrastructure to block Internet applications and content (e.g. websites, services, and protocols), and even to block out competitors . A common example of this is Comcast’s blocking of torrenting sites which sport pirated content . It is also argued that by allowing ISP’s to block out competitors from their users, we are promoting monopolies.
-First, it is the prerogative of ISP’s to block illegal and pirated content. In fact, arguing this as a supporting factor for net neutrality is quite ludicrous, as the FCC and government at large is greatly engaged in the prevention of piracy. Thus, ISP’s pursuing this on their own independent of government regulation is rather beneficial to the FCC and society.
-Second, in terms of promoting monopolies, it really doesn’t. Net neutrality laws are not going to eliminate monopolies such as Comcast; anti-trust regulations would be required for that. Really all net neutrality does is make it harder for startup communication companies just entering the market to become successful, actually hardening monopolies in the long run. Further, it is entirely within the scope of a company/ISP to restrict access to competitor’s content or specific sites it doesn’t want to give access to. In fact, it’s good business, and common in the marketplace. Further, such restrictions by monopolies or large ISP’s actually makes the dissolution of monopolies more likely, as smaller startup companies would receive more subscribers and users as they became more restricted by the larger providers. In the end, the market regulates itself better than the FCC can possibly hope to.
-It is important to note that a lack of net neutrality laws doesn’t infringe on the consumers access to Internet. It simply means they pay for the access they want. Whatever access they don’t have, they aren’t paying for.
 - https://ec.europa.eu...
The resolution of this debate is “The USFG should reject net neutrality”, and the winner, according to Pro - as is noted in his first round - is decided by whoever can show that their position, if translated into policy, results in “net benefits”. I shall do this by refuting all his contentions, and in doing so, show that there are no exclusive benefits in rejecting net neutrality.
Pro essentially argues that the USFG should reject net neutrality because “net neutrality does not, [in fact], result in a more open internet, but actually takes steps towards a closed internet.” Note that in order for him to use this kind of reasoning and reach the position that the USFG should reject net neutrality, he needs to make the assumption that an open internet is more desirable than a closed internet, which he has not done. Personally, I do believe that an open internet is more desirable than a closed internet, so I’m on his side on this, but I reject all contentions that he makes in attempting to show that net neutrality takes steps towards a closed internet. Let’s see his contentions.
Freedom of Speech
Pro argues that enforcement of net neutrality would stifle freedom of speech. According to him, “anyone claiming that new network neutrality regulations through the FCC will result in ‘greater freedom of speech’ is frankly either lying, or deluded.” Given that he has made a very strong claim, one would expect him to give solid reasons, or evidence, in support of his claim. Unfortunately, he has not done so. Essentially, his argument amounts to that the FCC doesn’t support freedom of speech - as a matter of fact, it is against freedom of speech - and consequently, enforcement of net neutrality laws would, by giving the government more control of the Internet, thus stifling freedom of speech.
Such an argument is problematic in several ways:
Perhaps in anticipation of (b), Pro creates a slippery slope argument. He observes that the Chinese government strongly regulates telecommunication industries in China, thus promoting censorship and the rejection of freedom of speech. Thus, Pro argues, net neutrality regulation may be the first step further governmental control and restriction over the Internet. There are multiple things wrong with this argument:
(a) Slippery slope arguments “[avoid] engaging with the issue and instead shifts attention to extreme hypotheticals.” Thus, they are fallacious (1)
(b)There is a big difference between the way regulation of telecommunication industries as advocated by the supporter of net neutrality in the US and the way telecommunication industries are regulated in China. In China, actual website content is blocked, while enforcement of net neutrality laws only lead to the regulation of how the telecommunication industry can transfer information on the Internet. Thus, Pro needs to give reasons to how net neutrality regulation would lead to the type of censorship observed in China.
(c) China and the U.S cannot be compared, because of the different socio-political situations between the two countries. For one, the Chinese government has a strong incentive/motive in committing acts of internet censorship and restricting freedom of speech - eg. to silence dissent and preserve the political system present in China by restricting knowledge of other political systems - while the U.S government does not. Second, the U.S is far more democratic than China - it’s citizens have a greater influence on governmental policy, for an example of Internet policy, look at SOPA. Thus, we should be skeptical over his claims that net neutrality would eventually lead to a closed internet in this sense.
Net Neutrality and Competition
Pro argues that Comcast’s blocking of torrent sites housing pirated content was justified, and that “arguing this [Comcast’s actions] as a supporting factor of net neutrality is ludicrous.”
(a) Adherents of net neutrality do not use Comcast’s actions as a reason for promoting net neutrality. Rather, they use this as an example to illustrate the fact that ISPs are not to be trusted with regulating and controlling the Internet, thus acting as a reason against Pro’s position that the USFG should reject net neutrality, rather than a positive reason for net neutrality.
(b) Pro cherry-picks information by only mentioning that Comcast was blocking torrent sites housing pirated content. Rather, Comcast was blocking BitTorrent traffic in general, as his source indicates. (2) It is important to note that BitTorrent is not solely used for pirating content - there plenty of legitimate uses such as legally downloading game updates, and the Internet Archive - because BitTorrent is merely a means to spread information.(3) Thus, blocking BitTorrent traffic would also infringe upon legal uses of the technology.
(c) Pro has not shown that it is the “prerogative” of ISPs to block illegal and pirated content. Indeed, it could be argued that the sole purpose of ISPs is to provide Internet access, and thus they should not be controlling what their clients are doing on the Internet, because it is out of their bounds.
Pro also provides several reasons why rejecting net-neutrality laws do not promote monopolies. For instance, he argues that net neutrality will not end monopolies, instead it makes it harder to end monopolies.
(a) Advocates of net neutrality do not argue that net neutrality regulation will end monopolies; instead they are arguing that rejection of net neutrality will promote the development of monopolies/duopolies etc, or that net neutrality regulation will make it easier to end monopolies/duopolies etc. Thus, Pro’s statement is non-topical.
(b) Essentially all of this segment regarding competition is pure assertion. Pro has not justified any of the claims he makes here, and thus on this basis alone, all of his claims should be discounted until he provides justification.
(a) Pro claims that Internet content such as “an online calculator, a funny home video, and an e-Book” should not be treated equally, because they are not equal in importance. But the importance of such content is not intrinsic, but relative to different people. Thus, the question of whose perspective discerns the importance of online content is raised.
(b) Pro argues that because the various content on the Internet are different, they ought to be treated differently. However, he makes the jump from a descriptive statement (various content on the Internet are different) to a normative statement (they ought to be treated differently) arbitrarily, and does not show how the descriptive statement logically leads to the normative statement.
Pro uses an analogy of a household in order to illustrate why rejecting net neutrality would be beneficial, and extends this logic towards an entire community. Fundamentally, this is a question of how to deal with network congestion, and Pro argues that rejecting net neutrality would help solve this problem. However:
(a) In the case that net neutrality is rejected, and ISPs are able to deal with network congestion through allowing in variation of pricing Internet access according to how one uses the Internet, Pro does not elaborate on which method ISPs are to do this. Do customers sign up to an Internet package which is optimised for what they are to do with the Internet (eg. a package optimised for watching Netflix)? Do customers sign up to a rather blank Internet package, and the pricing is determined later on how customers use their Internet? Both are in my view, problematic, and I would like Pro to elaborate on the specific details of his view.
(b) The fact that the two people in the household are unable to complete simple activities on the Internet such as Google searches (this also applies when Pro’s argument is extended to the community) does not mean that net neutrality should be rejected. S. Derek Turner notes that net neutrality regulation as pushed for still “leave ISPs completely free to address congestion via reasonable network management methods.” (4) Thus, the benefit of being able to address network congestion effectively as argued by proponents of net neutrality rejection is not exclusive to their position, and net neutrality still allows room to fix these problems.
Pro claims that “similar regulations are place in Europe”. However, what regulations are he talking about? Net neutrality regulations? His Source 4 states that there are no established net neutrality regulations in the European Union. So where in Europe is he talking about? Regardless of this, it is a factual mistake to claim that “broadband services are significantly cheaper in the US”, when in reality, broadband service is actually much more expensive in the U.S when compared to many areas in Europe (3 times more expensive than in the U.K and France)
In this round, I have refuted the core of Pro’s arguments, showing that none of his 3 main contentions stand up to scrutiny, and as a result, show that there are no benefits (exclusive) in rejecting net neutrality. Thus, Pro has not affirmed his burden of proof, and the resolution is negated.
I find myself over the character limit, and must pick and choose my arguments (I WILL address all dropped arguments):
Freedom of Speech
With regards to the FCC not supporting freedom of speech:
b) Opposition argues that “net neutrality laws do not give the government more power to control what is available to us on the Internet” because the FCC isn’t trying to regulate the internet itself, only the providers. This is patently false; we can look to historical examples of content-based regulation of TV and radio allowed by the Supreme Court, which stated that the FCC could restrain radio and TV broadcasters on a content-neutral basis . However, the FCC was then allowed the discretion of deciding what was ‘content-neutral.’ Through this open interpretation, the FCC was able to fine or even revoke the licenses of radio and TV stations it felt were not ‘fair and balanced,’ or if the station aired profanity, hate speech or other offenses [2,3]. In regulating the way that telecommunication industries operate their Internet services through current proposed net neutrality legislation, the FCC would be given oversight of every ISP in the nation. Opposition has not objected to the fact that passing said net neutrality legislation would give the FCC precedent for the authority to regulate the internet, which is what they want-an open door to becoming a governing authority over the internet.
Further supporting the FCC’s lack of dedication to freedom of speech is their history of desiring to implement ‘fairness’ in all broadcasting of any sort. A major aspect of this is the Fairness Doctrine of 1949, which required holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, in the Commission's view, honest, equitable and balanced, thus greatly curbing the freedom of speech of all those subject to its control . While eliminated in 1987, it turns out that the FCC never lost the desire to institute this ‘fairness’ of coverage in the media. Last May the FCC proposed a "Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs" with the desire of determining the methods by which reporters, editors and station owners decide which stories to run . The FCC stated that the goal of this study was to create guidelines to ‘aid media sources in what they could provide that is content-neutral and fair to the public.’ FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn stated “The FCC has a duty to make sure that the industries it regulates serve the needs of the American public no matter where they live or what financial resources they have” . All of this shows the interests of the FCC in regulating media and what they are able to provide and express (a clear regulation of freedom of speech), and net neutrality legislation will only further their ability to do so. In fact, the FCC is leaning on this legislation and pushing for its passage so heavily because their success in promoting ‘fairness’ and reinstituting the fairness doctrine relies so heavily on their ability to control ISPs. In fact, this wouldn’t be the first time in recent years that this doctrine has been brought to the table; in 2007 numerous Congressional Democrats, with Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer at their head, aggressively pursued the reinstatement of the fairness doctrine .
Additionally, to enforce such ‘fairness’ as the FCC has expressed a desire to institute, the FCC would need to create guidelines to regulate search results, ensuring that an equal number of liberal and conservative views load on the same page, moving some down and some up to make the overall page ‘neutral’ or ‘fair.’ This clearly results in a violation of freedom of speech of a search engine’s owners and those of the individual sites/articles, as their opinions and the manner in which they present them are being classified and reorganized in an arbitrary manner determined by the FCC.
Further, the 5-member commission stated in their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that two viable sources of such FCC authority over ISPs are Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and Title II of the Communications Act . Title II pertains to how the FCC grants broadcast licenses; the terms of licenses, renewal processes, content restrictions, etc. The FCC having control over the licenses of all ISPs means their actions are inherently controlled by the FCC. Further, ISPs would also become subject to the FCC’s Discrimination Clause , a part of Section 706 which states that “broadcasters must certify that they do not discriminate in the sale of advertising time”  or of content, meaning that the FCC retains the right to determine if the agency is unduly biased and, if so found, ‘correct’ it (by revoking licenses). Similarly, Title II states that common carriers (ISPs would fall under this in net neutrality laws) can’t “make any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services,” which the FCC expanded in 2011 to include partisan viewpoints [3,7,8].
Through all of this, it becomes quite clear that the FCC IS NOT engaged in the protection of freedom of speech. In fact, this factual evidence shows a very existent desire on the part of the FCC to obtain greater control of the internet for the purposes of normalizing opinion availability and creating a questionable ‘fairness’ which clearly infringes on freedom of speech much more than the status quo. Thus, in clear contradiction to Opposition’s assertion, the enforcement of net neutrality laws DOES in fact give the government via the FCC more power to control what is available to us on the internet, and that further the FCC clearly does seek to regulate the internet through the regulation of ISPs.
With regard to Opposition’s objections to the example of China, point by point:
b) To defend a perceived difference between the US and China, Opposition states “In China, actual website content is blocked”; the FCC will have the capacity to do the very same by revoking licenses of ISPs/information providers, by applying a fairness doctrine to govern what is acceptable, and through the discrimination clause to eliminate voices not expressing all viewpoints. This is remarkably similar, though certainly not as extreme, as the censorship seen in China.
c) Opposition cites a difference in socio-political situations as the reasoning for their incompatibility; however, this does not change the fact that it is inherently the desire of those officials in government to stay in power that results in such censorship and closed internet practices, which is just as existent in the US as it is in China.
Net Neutrality and Competition
b) BitTorrent is a growing source of legitimate content sharing, but my point is that BitTorrent is also a major member of the pirated content market, meaning that relative to, say, SOPA, the site should be halted solely because it traffics pirated content, regardless of legal activities.
c) While it is not always the goal of ISPs to halt internet piracy, it is their business to supply internet to their clients, and it is certainly within their bounds to place restrictions on the services they provide. Certainly clients may not like it if they are blocked from a particular site, but this is simply one of the reasons that individuals switch who they buy from. The Opposition has yet to argue precisely why it is not within the rights of ISPs to control what content they supply to their users-because they do.
a) The value of each of these is indeed intrinsic; however, I would prefer ISPs decide what is available rather than a commission of 5 people.
b) To clarify:
a. Various content on the internet are different-ex., playing PTP games online eats more bandwidth than simple google searches, thus making them greatly different relative to ISPs
b. They ought to be treated differently-because one uses more bandwidth than the other, bandwidth being the ‘currency’ ISPs deal in when providing service to users, it is only natural that ISPs treat the two on different levels (or pricing, should they decide)
c. In Other Words-because various content on the internet are not equal in the eyes of ISPs due to the bandwidth they use or their popularity, etc., it is illogical to force ISPs to treat them identically
With regard to the household analogy:
a) My ‘view’ is against net neutrality. This resolution does not require me to specify how the ISPs should do this; my burden of proof is simply to argue for the rejection of net neutrality. Thus, Opposition’s question is non-topical.
b) ISPs have not addressed internet congestion because they feel a better solution is to have clients paying for the level of data they want to use. In the Comcast article, the stated goal of restricting access to BitTorrent was to manage the network and “keep file-sharing traffic from swallowing too much bandwidth and affecting the Internet speeds of other subscribers.” ISPs haven’t undertaken another solution due to the enormous cost of doing so. A rejection of net neutrality would result in an immediate solution; the institution of net neutrality legislation allows for solution, but depends on action by ISPs independent of legislation, and thus cannot be said to have solvency. Thus, a rejection of net neutrality holds sway here as solvency for network congestion falls in favor of a rejection of net neutrality in this debate.
Thanks, Pro, for your quick yet substantive rebuttals.
Freedom of Speech
First, I would like to provide a general criticism of Pro’s argument that the FCC would through net neutrality, infringe upon freedom of speech. Note that the resolution of the debate concerns whether “the USFG should reject net neutrality.” But he has not specified exactly which form of net neutrality legislation the USFG ought the reject. Thus, we are left to concluding that he is arguing that the USFG ought to reject net neutrality as a general principle; a concept - in effect, all forms of net neutrality. Pro too notes that he was quite interested in “the concept of net neutrality”. As a result, this debate should focus on net neutrality as a principle of a concept.
However, his argument - the FCC would likely infringe upon freedom of speech through net neutrality – is not sufficient to reach the conclusion – the USFG ought to reject net neutrality as a general principle; in effect, all forms of net neutrality. This is because Pro’s argument has a very narrow scope; it only deals with the FCC as the enforcer, rather than net neutrality itself. In effect, his argument does not take into consideration potential net neutrality legislation; for instance, ones that in order to be enforced, requires the FCC to regulate ISPs in a highly transparent and democratic manner. In this scenario, it may be that the FCC has a strong incentive in reinvoking the Fairness Doctrine, but this is ultimately irrelevant.
Pro argues that because previously, the FCC has regulated content on TV and radio and was allowed to decide what was content-neutral, the FCC is likely to infringe upon freedom of speech on the Internet. But the problem is that the FCC was allowed to decide on their interpretation on what was content-neutral. As noted, the resolution is dealing with net neutrality as a principle. In legislation of net neutrality where the FCC was not allowed to define “content neutral”, this argument would no longer apply. In addition, Pro neglected to mention that structural differences between the operation of TV + Radio and the Internet. Leonhardt notes that:
“the Internet “decouples” the strong link between transmission and content; therefore, there is nothing on the Internet that is directly analogous to a television or radio broadcaster. Television broadcasters both transmit data and control its content, so that when a person watches NBC, they are only seeing NBC’s programming. Conversely, on the Internet, the signal comes to a home from an Internet Service Provider (ISP), such as AT&T, Comcast, Road Runner, or Verizon.57 However, once a consumer has a signal, they can view any content at all—even content created by a competing ISP.” (1)
Consequently, we also should by default reject Pro’s slippery slope argument regarding the possibility of net neutrality leading to censorship as seen in China, because it falls to the same “general criticism” I already made above.
But even if we do not reject such an argument by default we could make a variety of criticisms. Firstly, I noted in the 2nd round that Pro’s argument is logically fallacious because it commits the slippery slope fallacy. Pro never responded to this, although he did indicate that he would eventually respond to all arguments, so I’ll wait for him to do so. I also argued that because of the socio-political differences between in America and China, it is unlikely that net neutrality would lead to censorship like seen in China. Pro does not dispute this point; he merely argues that government officials still have the intention of keeping in power. However, this is irrelevant, because I am arguing that regardless of the government’s will to stay in power, infringement upon freedom of speech would probably never happen due to the differences between the two countries.
Previously, I argued that because there are legitimate uses of BitTorrent, Comcast should not have blocked BitTorrent traffic. Pro’s reply misses the mark. Firstly, he argues that the “site should solely be halted because it traffics pirated content, regardless of legal activities”. However, Comcast was not solely blocking sites that hold pirated content available through BitTorrent, they were blocking BitTorrent traffic in general. In addition, there many examples of sites that use BitTorrent for solely legal purposes and have no pirated content. I provided the example of the Internet Archive in my previous round. To elaborate upon my last round, I also suggested that in order to download and update specific games, one would use a client that is dependent on BitTorrent technology. Furthermore, Pro shifts burden-of-proof. His argument is dependent on the assumption (aka. Hidden premise) that ISPs have the right to block out specific content ie. BitTorrent traffic, thus he is expected to defend the premise, just like any other premise. I don’t have to provide an argument against this assumption, I merely have to ensure that his hidden premise is not affirmed, and I can do this by providing arguments of my own, criticising his arguments for the hidden premise, or both.
In the 2nd Round, Pro also notes that he is arguing that net neutrality would take steps towards a closed Internet, rather than an open Internet, and thus it should be rejected. I showed that in order for this to lead logically to the USFG rejecting net neutrality, Pro would have to assume that an open Internet is desirable, and that a closed Internet is undesirable. I noted that I too support an open internet. Thus, this debate is run on the parameters that an open Internet is desirable, whilst a closed Internet is undesirable. Recall that the definition of closed Internet that is applied to this debate is:
“where established corporations or governments favor certain uses; may have restricted access to necessary web standards, artificially degrade some services, or explicitly filter out content.”
If Pro is willing to defend Comcast’s blocking of BitTorrent traffic/websites - which is a textbook example of “explicitly filter[ing] content” - he is in effect defending actions leading to a closed Internet. However, this makes his case inconsistent, because he is arguing that net neutrality leads to a closed Internet, and thus should be rejected while at the same time supporting other actions which lead to a closed Internet.
a) Pro misread me; I was not affirming that the value of the examples to be intrinsic, I was saying that those were relative. For instance, I would place the highest value on the e-Book, then the online calculator, and next-to-no value on the funny home video. In contrast, somebody may else may have the exact opposite. If ISPs were to regulate content as Pro proposes, then the problem of how the ISP should discern the value of each of these examples is raised.
b) I argued that Pro needs to show how the descriptive statement logically leads to the normative statement. This is because descriptive statements only deal with how the world works, in effect, what is. However, a normative statement deals with how the world ought to be, in other worlds, what should be the case, and thus lack logical connection. (2) Pro has not shown how they logically do connect; he is merely restating the descriptive statement. To show how the descriptive statement leads to the normative statement, at the very least, Pro must assume that different entities ought to be treated differently because of their differences.
a) The winner of this debate is determined on the basis of what would be “net beneficial”. Thus, I am essentially arguing that in the case of ISPs having to price content at different prices in the case of net neutrality being rejected, negative consequences will follow. So my question is relevant towards the debate, and thus must be answered.
b) It was conceded last round that rejection of net neutrality nevertheless allows for solving the problem of network congestion. This is an important concession on behalf of Pro. Nevertheless, he makes the argument that “ISPs have not addressed internet congestion because they feel a better solution is to have clients paying for the level of data they want to use” and “due to the enormous cost of doing so”. But Pro has not justified neither claims, so at this point, we can only conclude that both are conjectures.
Pro also argues that “a rejection of net neutrality would result in an immediate solution; the institution of net neutrality legislation allows for solution, but depends on actions by ISPs independent of legislation”, and thus we should favour the rejection of net neutrality. But a rejection of net neutrality does not result in an immediate solution. ISPs would still have to deal with a variety of questions such as how they ought to discern the importance of different content; which ones to put in the “fast lane” and how what form of pricing they should offer customers. In addition, a rejection of net neutrality legislation only entails that data should not be treated equally, it doesn’t immediately lead to the ISP enforcing the particular pricing scheme that Pro advocates; they merely have the freedom to do so. Thus, a rejection of net neutrality offers no particular advantage to an affirmation of net neutrality in managing web congestion.
Pro still needs to address several criticisms that I had made in the previous round. Many of the criticisms that he has supposedly addressed – as seen in this round – still ultimately triumph. Furthermore, a number of original objections were raised in this round, also rendering Pro’s counterarguments to be unviable. Thus, Pro still has not fulfilled his burden of proof. The resolution is negated.
Many thanks to my opponent for a great debate and prompt replies!
-To confirm Opposition’s note that we are either accepting or rejecting net neutrality as a general principle/concept, this is correct-we are considering all forms of network neutrality legislation.
-That said, Opposition argues that the logical connective cannot be made between the FCC infringing upon freedom of speech and the USFG rejecting net neutrality legislation because my arguments only address the FCC as the agency of said legislation. There are several flaws with Opposition’s argumentation here. First, Opposition overlooks the fact that ALL current network neutrality legislation would employ the FCC as the enforcer. Opposition’s sole example of legislation which does not require the FCC as enforcer is “for instance, ones that in order to be enforced, requires the FCC to regulate ISPs in a highly transparent and democratic manner.” This, again, uses the FCC as enforcer; unless Opposition can produce an example to the contrary, this argument is irrelevant. My primary issue with this statement is that Opposition suggests that the FCC is not currently tasked with operating in a “highly transparent and democratic manner.” They absolutely are! Yet we constantly see with government a gap between what they are obligated to do, and what they do in reality. Unless Opposition presents examples of specific legislation spelling out exactly how such transparency is achieved and grants solvency, this is simply a hypothetical solution. Further, Opposition’s argument that a strong incentive to reinstate the fairness doctrine would be irrelevant in a ‘highly transparent’ organization is also making broad assumptions about the commission. Regardless of how transparent they are, their idea of ‘fair’ still does not line up with ours, and their ideology will continue to influence their decisions regardless of whether we achieve the ‘transparency’ Opposition argues for.
-I believe Opposition’s objections to the use of China as an example are unfounded for several reasons. First, Opposition argues that this is a slippery slope, that the US could never mirror China for internet censorship. Note that this was not the intent of my point; the use of China as an example is to show the similarities between censorship in China and what would be achieved by net neutrality in the US. Journalist Rebecca MacKinnon states “The intention is not the same as China’s Great Firewall, a nationwide system of Web censorship, but the practical effect could be similar” in reference to SOPA and net neutrality . Judging by the historical implications of the FCC I introduced in my last round, it is not unreasonable to suggest this as a possibility we should at the very least be wary of; as such, I reject Opposition’s argument of ‘slippery slope,’ for the reason that there is a very clear. Opposition then states “infringement upon freedom of speech would probably never happen due to the differences between the two countries.” It is this type of unguarded stance that allows our rights to become infringed upon. Regardless of socio-political differences between America and China, the characteristics inherent to human nature which cause the desire to influence the opinions of others in favor of self are clearly existent in both nations. Then of course there’s the fact that the FCC has already infringed upon our freedom of speech, something Opposition has yet to attempt to contradict.
-A crux issue in this debate is the question of whether or not ISPs have the right to block out specific content, ie. decide what they make available to clients. I have already made it clear that I support this right for ISPs. Opposition has argued that this result in legitimate content being blocked from users; so what? ISPs as providers of a service should be able to decide exactly what their service entails. This does not mean I support spontaneous blocking of sites; I do agree that ISPs should be open with consumers about what they have access to-I simply believe they are within their rights to block sites if they wish. Secondly, even should each point in support of ISPs having this right be rejected, Opposition is still required to suggest reasons they should not have this right in order to receive a vote under net benefits, a burden Opposition has not upheld. I strongly urge Opposition to present reasons why this is outside the right of ISPs, as the only argument presented thus far is that it isn’t best for the consumer-this is why consumers change ISPs. This is where the free market comes in; if one company doesn’t satisfy the consumer, the market provides a new option to make a profit through satisfying this new market of consumers.
-I apologize for omitting this from my first response, but I concede Opposition’s point that I never explicitly stated that an open internet is more desirable than a closed internet. To clarify, my stance is that an open internet is more desirable, and further hold to my contention that net neutrality legislation will result in a net decrease in the openness of the internet. Opposition argues that allowing ISPs to restrict content access would result in a closed internet; I assert that this regardless is a net increase in the internet’s openness. First, with numerous ISPs and the free market allowing for other options to emerge for consumers, the internet remains open, in contrast to net neutrality which introduces the FCC as presider over the internet, a clear introduction to a closed internet. Thus, net neutrality will result in a net reduction of internet openness, regardless of slight restriction by ISPs. We are, essentially, choosing the greater evil, which is government censorship/control of the internet.
-I would also like to point out that net neutrality concentrates the decision of what is available into the hands of five commission members, as opposed to numerous ISPs and their corporation structures. I personally would choose option B any day. At a certain point, there is always someone choosing what is available to us for viewing; opting against net neutrality dilutes this into many, many more hands than the government, which is certainly preferable for the pursuit of freedom of speech and internet content availability.
-For innovation: let me rephrase. These are different and are considered different by ISPs because they use differing amounts of bandwidth. Stipulating disconnects between descriptive and normative statements will not eliminate the technological differences between each of these; Opposition is essentially avoiding the recognition that there is a reason for ISPs to regard each uniquely. Just as we place prices on items in stores based off of the cost of production, ISPs place costs on types of data because of cost to supply it.
-With regards to regulations in Europe: There most certainly are net neutrality regulations in place in Europe [3,4,5]. Further, by regulations in Europe, I am referring additionally to the European regulation framework that establishes public broadband as a public utility; the service-based competition system established by law has resulted in a system where no new investment or infrastructure is introduced into the system, causing a net loss in innovation. Broadband investment per household in the US is twice that in Europe; coverage is better; and basic broadband is cheaper in the US than in Europe [8,9]. The discrepancy between your statistics and mine can be found in the fact that the cost comparison of broadband in Europe is strictly for broadband, not a bundle of broadband, TV, and phone, which appears to be the focus of your cited statistics. France is the sole exception here; France actually has exceptional broadband services nd prices relative to the rest of Europe.
a) ISPs may adopt any model of pricing they decide upon; they are independent businesses supplying a service to a consumer. I would contend that net benefits would be achieved in rejecting net neutrality, which I feel I have made sufficiently clear.
b) My claims have been justified; the sources included in my last argument confirm this. Further, Opposition is being selective in quoting my arguments. I concede that both allow for lessening of congestion; I also state “A rejection of net neutrality would result in an immediate solution; the institution of net neutrality legislation allows for solution, but depends on action by ISPs independent of legislation, and thus cannot be said to have solvency. Thus, a rejection of net neutrality holds sway here as solvency for network congestion falls in favor of a rejection of net neutrality in this debate.” Thus I hold net benefits here stronger than Opposition’s case does.
-I feel I have sufficiently responded to each argument presented by the Opposition. However, I also feel the Opposition has not presented a case worthy of a win. Based off of the resolution, Opposition is tasked with arguing in favor of net neutrality; Opposition has failed to present any substantial arguments in favor of network neutrality, including why ISPs should not be able to engage in independent business models. Net benefits requires Opposition to create a clear image of how net neutrality is beneficial, not simply to attack the status quo. Should we not see this stance develop, it is impossible to assign net benefits to Opposition.
(Note that I have neglected to mention a variety of arguments that have little or no bearing on the debate, 10000 characters are often not enough when debating a topic like this)
Pro claims that he should be the winner of this debate because “the Opposition has not presented a case worthy of a win.” But it was stated very explicitly in my 2nd Round that my strategy in this debate is not to provide positive arguments for net neutrality; instead I was to undermine Pro’s arguments, by refuting all of his contentions, and thus show that there are exclusive benefits in rejecting net neutrality. If I do this successfully, then Pro has not met his BOP. But in doing so, I inadvertently affirm a case for net neutrality because in his 1st round, Pro has essentially set out the case for net neutrality, as he has already specified arguments in favour of net neutrality, such as:
• A rejection of net neutrality enables “broadband providers to use their last mile infrastructure to block Internet applications and content.”
• Net neutrality enables “equal treatment” and “ends [ending] discrimination in transmitting content”, which is desirable.
Pro then seeks out to refute them. But, if I successfully refute his criticisms, then these arguments for net neutrality are affirmed by default. So I personally do not have to provide positive arguments of my own, because Pro already has done so for me.
In addition, in other areas of the debate, I have also implicitly made arguments for net neutrality such as:
• “ISPs are not to be trusted with regulating and controlling the Internet.”
Freedom of Speech
a) Pro accepts that net neutrality as considered in this debate will be focussing on the principle or concept of net neutrality – in effect, all forms of net neutrality legislation. Pro takes issue with the “highly transparent and democratic manner” bit. He claims that the FCC already is highly transparent and democratic. This contradicts his later statement; that “net neutrality concentrates the decision of what is available into the hands of five commission members.” [the FCC] I don’t see how that is transparent and democratic (especially) at all.
b) Pro also argues that my solution is “hypothetic” and that I would need to present “examples of specific legislation spelling out how exactly transparency is achieved and grants solvency.” I don’t. No matter how hypothetical the scenario presented is, it still should be treated because we are dealing with net neutrality as a principle.
c) Pro also argues that “regardless of how transparent they are, their idea of ‘fair’ still does not line up with ours.” But I am not advocating for the FCC to merely act “transparently”, but also “highly democratically”.
a) Pro’s argument is irrelevant. Even if we adopt the view that net neutrality would lead to infringements of freedom of speech with parallels to censorship in China, it still is a slippery slope.
Consider the format of a slippery slope fallacy:
“If we allow A to happen, then Z will eventually too, therefore A should not happen.”
We can see that Pro’s argument doesn’t overcome the problem of a slippery slope, because Z is simply changed from “censorship that mirrors China” to “censorship that has many parallels to censorship as seen in China.”
b) Pro misuses MacKinnon’s article. Never in the article did MacKinnon talk about net neutrality, as a Control+F search of “neutrality.” would reveal. Instead, MacKinnon was talking about the Stop Online Piracy Act, a separate issue.
Pro attempts to treat the issue lightly, making an argument based on history to suggest that “it is not unreasonable to suggest that this is a possibility we should at the very least be wary of.”
c) Pro has not responded to my argument in the previous round that FCC actions regarding televisions and radios should not be compared with the Internet, because of the different ways information is transmitted between those.
d) It is merely established that FCC’s supposed infringement upon freedom of speech is a “possibility”. But that alone is not enough to provide a reason why we should reject net neutrality. We could still have a rationale for implementing net neutrality, but merely be wary over the FCC ie. make their actions “highly transparent and democratic”.
1. Blocking Content
Pro claims that it is entirely reasonable that ISPs are able to block out legitimate content because they are the providers of a service, and thus it is entirely reasonable that they should be able to do what they want with such a service. Note that Pro has conceded the BitTorrent point, and shifts his attention to the rights of ISPs as a whole.
a) This argument is that it entails a closed Internet, because ISPs “favour certain uses” and “explicitly filter out content”, even though it is presumed within the framework of this debate that a closed internet is not desirable. Thus, we should not grant them this right.
b) Pro does attempt to address this argument, though. He argues that “with numerous ISPs and the free market allowing for other options for consumers, the internet remains open.” This is true, when considering the internet from a wide scope. It should be noted that my argument looks at the openness of the Internet from the perspective of a subscriber of an ISP company choosing to filter out content.
Thus, it is claimed that on balance, the Internet still remains more open if net neutrality were rejected, than if it were not, because the introduction of “the FCC as a presider over the internet” is “a clear introduction to a closed internet”.
d) Pro assumes that the FCC will abuse their power and promote actions that lead to a closed Internet. This is essentially his “freedom of speech” argument repackaged. It should be discounted due to the fact that compelling replies have already been given to such an argument, as seen above.
e) His argument – that net neutrality places the decision of what is available on the Internet into the hands of five commission members – fails due to the same issue. We are dealing with net neutrality as a principle rather than specific forms of its legislation. Pro’s argument does not address net neutrality as a principle – net neutrality does not require 5 commission members to be in control – rather, it addresses specific forms of net neutrality.
a) Pro has not addressed the descriptive-normative gap argument satisfactorily. Critics of his position do not deny that there are differences between the bandwidth needs of various content. The problem is how to link the descriptive statement (what is) to a normative statement (what ought).
b) Merely restating the descriptive statement does not get anyone anywhere in bridging this gap. In order to get from an is to an ought, Pro must “combine the [is] with an ethical principle or assumption.” (1)
c) Pro’s analogy of a store fails. Pro notes that different types of date have a different cost to be supplied. But this doesn’t mean that different pricing schemes for different types of data should be adopted, because this is not necessarily in virtue of the type of data transmitted, but rather the ISPs’ method of data transmission. Tom MacKay explains:
“ISPs…need to deal with connections between content providers and their own networks. When Game of Thrones freezes up, the problem could be saturation at the select locations where data leaves HBO and intersects with an ISP…the ISP must upgrade their network to accommodate traffic that might be generated by a few high-data companies.” (2)
a) The net neutrality regulations in Europe are recent – only established this year - so we can’t make any judgements empirically.
b) Pro needs to show that the reason that because Internet is lacking in Europe is a consequence of the establishment of broadband as a public utility. He, and the article he refers to, only cites a correlation between the two, not a causal relationship. There are other factors that should be taken into account eg. regarding broadband coverage, the discrepancy could be explained by the fact that the U.S is much richer than many European countries such as Moldova, Romania, and Bulgaria.
c) Cheng et.al in their paper The Debate on Net Neutrality: A Policy Perspective show that the opposite is the case. They use a “game theoretic model” to evaluate the impact of net neutrality, and conclude that “the incentive to expand infrastructure capacity for the broadband service provider and its optimal capacity choice under net neutrality are higher than those under the no net neutrality regime except in some specific cases. Under net neutrality, the broadband service provider always invests in broadband infrastructure at the socially optimal level, but either under- or over-invests in infrastructure capacity in the absence of net neutrality.” (3)
a) I don’t see how I have been selective with Pro’s arguments, and Pro doesn’t specify how so. Pro doesn’t specify which source provides justifications for his claims, so I can’t possibly evaluate his argument, considering that several of the sources are extremely long and for the most part, seemingly irrelevant. His quotation from “the Comcast article” fails to justify both claims that I called out upon.
b) I have addressed Pro’s argument. I argued that rejection of net neutrality doesn’t result in an immediate solution of network congestion, as with the case with an affirmation of net neutrality, so neither offers an advantage.
By refuting Pro’s arguments, I am in effect, making a case for net neutrality. Pro’s major arguments have been refuted. Thus, I have implicitly made a case for net neutrality, as well as refuted Pro’s arguments against it. The resolution is negated.
-My great thanks to an excellent opponent for providing excellent opposition in this debate; I legitimately enjoyed it!
-In this final round, I will seek to address all of the main points and summarize arguments to as to be as clear as possible on the rational for why I have succeeded in fulfilling the resolution that the USFG should reject Network Neutrality.
Freedom of Speech
-I agreed that we are considering the concept of net neutrality as “a general principle/concept; we are considering all forms of network neutrality legislation.” Inherent to this, while certainly debating the merits of the possible, we are focusing on the current net neutrality legislation as proposed by the USFG; debating any other form of legislation is not of immediate relevance, as it is not being considered for institution. Thus, my previous arguments against net neutrality via the FCC stand, as ALL current forms of proposed net neutrality legislation specifically utilize the FCC as the primary actor, an argument which Opposition ceded and attempts to circumvent by arguing that we are only addressing net neutrality as a concept in an effort to eliminate all historical applications of net neutrality legislation, including through the FCC, thus hoping to eliminate all arguments against freedom of speech; this clearly fails.
-Opposition protests that my arguments are very narrow in that “it only deals with the FCC as the enforcer,” an argument addressed above; however, note that Opposition’s only suggested alternative to current net neutrality legislation is one which “requires the FCC to regulate ISPs in a highly transparent and democratic manner,” with the suggestion that this would prevent such control of the internet by the FCC suggested previously. The first problem is that this still involves the FCC as the enforcer, negating Oppositions solution.
-Opposition further misunderstands my arguments regarding the “highly transparent and democratic manner” bit. I never argue that the FCC is highly transparent and democratic, but rather that they are tasked with being highly transparent and democratic. Opposition’s solution for corruption and the FCC’s blatant censorship is to make them “highly transparent and democratic,” yet doesn’t have any suggestions on how. The problem with this approach is that they are already thus tasked; in fact, our entire form of government is built around the concept of being transparent and democratic, yet clearly there have been failings therein. Tacking a “highly democratic” onto a ‘highly transparent’ does not change the course of the government. The reason that I reject such a hypothetical as Opposition’s arguments have become invested in is because it has been an unachieved goal for decades. It is one thing to suggest a hypothetical on merit of its benefits; it is another entirely to argue solvency from a hypothetical without solvency for the hypothetical, the difference being: Opposition has suggested how we would benefit from a highly transparent and democratic FCC/government, yet fails to suggest the method of obtaining said transparency. Further, Opposition’s solvency is entirely speculation; Opposition has presented absolutely no proof that this theoretical transparency could result in the circumvention of the threats of concentrating power over ISPs into government hands, and therefore this argument is non-topical.
-It is neither inappropriate nor fallacial to note similarities between proposed US legislation and acts of censorship in foreign nations, nor is it fallacial to note the outcomes of such in foreign nations. I never argued that the outcome of net neutrality legislation will be China; I simply note the similarities and suggest that comparatively speaking, such actions of giving government control over the internet has led to government abusing this power-I am arguing for the similarity between the two. If such a comparison is fallacial, then every time we look to another nation, corporation, form of legislation, etc. to try and gauge the reaction/outcome of our pending actions based off of the outcome of theirs so as to improve upon it, we commit a fallacy, meaning one of two things: either our everyday actions are fallacial, yet work and have proven beneficial in reforming the path of our nation to avoid the mistakes of others; or Opposition’s interpretation here is mistaken. Either way this is a legitimate comparison that is used every day in our government to improve our policies and avoid the mistakes of others. For this reason the argument stands.
c) Opposition notes that “Pro has not responded to my argument in the previous round that FCC actions regarding televisions and radios should not be compared with the Internet, because of the different ways information is transmitted between those.” Opposition appears to be forgetting that under current legislation via Section 706 and Title II, internet services would be regrouped from information services to the same regulations governing common carriers (radio, TV). Thus, as the FCC will have the exact same level of control and oversight of the internet as it did over radio and TV, these two are absolutely comparable despite all informational transmission differences because the law would treat them absolutely the same. I am not ignoring the structural differences between TV/radio and the internet; rather, net neutrality legislation is. Your argument serves to undermine your own case.
a + b) On the contrary; I recognize the perspective you are coming from. I simply argue that on balance, the allowance of the market to introduce new ISPs without the restrictions of ones such as Comcast (the sole example of content exclusions cited in this debate) will allow for a net benefit. The FCC (or any other governmental entity) would impose strict regulations of what is/is not acceptable on the internet, and this content would simply be gone; nobody has access. Under ISPs, there could be limited content disallowed, but on the whole no content is strictly forbidden, and the market allows for the emergence of new ISPs supplying the content blocked by others; it is in their best interest economically in such a market (without net neutrality regulations) to supply as much content as possible.
d) I disagree; I feel compelling responses have been given as to why we should consider solely the FCC as actor under net neutrality legislation.
e) My argument here succeeds for the same reason cited above. Further, my arguments move past the specific legislation being considered in the US to other forms of net neutrality; I have asserted on several occasions that the fact that one commission (the FCC) has existed and been able to garner so much control over methods of communication shows the capacity for such organizations to exist. The mere fact that net neutrality legislation would entail giving a governmental body authority over the internet is sufficient argument against the institution of net neutrality legislation.
a + b) Opposition appears to be looking for a debate on economics; the recognition that “there are differences between the bandwidth needs of various content” directly leads to the conclusion, by businesses in general, that the pricing should vary accordingly to make a profit. This is common business practice, and Opposition’s attempt to philosophically analyze this practice is simply an attempt to distract from the real issue, which is that content is priced differently as a result of the production cost differential (which Opposition concedes to be true).
c) This doesn’t change the fact that it can cost more to transmit certain types of data, thus costing more, regardless of where precisely the cost originates.
b) The probability of network congestion being resolved is stronger without net neutrality. With net neutrality, ISPs are not required to upgrade their systems, resulting in no solution from net neutrality legislation. With ISPs being able to price their own internet packages, congestion is reduced due to users paying for their usage, but there is also a greater level of income with which to reform the system. The odds of network congestion solvency due to incentive by ISPs is much greater without net neutrality, granting Government net benefits in this instance.
-Opposition’s case relies heavily on very technical arguments, the foremost being that we should only analyze net neutrality as a concept, excluding the aspect of existing legislature. However, it is crucial for this debate to analyze not only net neutrality as a concept, but to also include the existing set of reforms which would enact net neutrality in the US. Hypothetical forms of legislation only become relevant once proposed, because here were are trying to argue the merits of that net neutrality legislation with which we have the potential to be governed by in the future. The only reason for Opposition’s exclusion of current legislation is the FCC’s history and the weight this lends to the Government in this debate.
-Further, Opposition’s only proposed argument against the right of ISP’s to price their services freely is that “they can’t be trusted to govern the internet” and “it would hurt the consumer.” As I have argued, an increased cost to the consumer has no bearing on the right of ISPs to self-determine pricing. Additionally, in arguing that ISPs cannot be trusted with the internet, Opposition is essentially arguing that the government (via the FCC) can. I have continually shown this assertion to be false throughout this debate; Opposition’s attempts to exclude the FCC from this debate following Round 2 only serves to support this point. I feel I have very thoroughly shown that the Government has earned net benefits in support of the resolution, The USFG Should Reject Network Neutrality, and that the Opposition has not upheld its burden of proof in this resolution.
-The Resolution is Upheld.
Thanks to my opponent kjorstad for providing an engaging response, and for his participation in this interesting debate – I certainly have learnt quite a lot. But with that said, let’s get down to business. In this Final Round, I will provide a final criticism of Pro’s arguments, helping to tie up some loose ends along the way, and also clarify a variety of points that I have made. In addition, I will also use this round to attempt to convince readers that they should vote for Con, rather than Pro.
Pro focusses a significant amount of his final round to focus on the FCC, and makes a variety of criticisms, many surrounding on the on the concepts of “principle” and “concept.” Thus, it is important to clarify what exactly is a principle, or a concept. The Oxford English Dictionary (Kindle Edition) defines principle as:
“A general idea of plan, although the details are not yet established.”
Also by the OED, concept is defined as:
“An abstract idea”
However, Pro argues that we should focus on current net neutrality proposals because “debating any other form of legislation is not of immediate relevance, as it is not being considered for institution.” But, given the definitions of “principle” and “concept” this is clearly absurd. As per the definition of principle, we are considering net neutrality in general, and considering it as if “the details are not established.” As per the definition of concept, we are to focus on net neutrality as “an abstract idea”. Therefore, Pro’s rebuttal bears little relevance; by attempting to focus this debate on current net neutrality legislation, regardless of its immediate relevance, he is destroying the whole purpose of debating a principle, or concept.
Previously, I gave an example of a scenario where Pro’s arguments that the FCC has no interest in representing freedom of speech are nullified – where the FCC regulates ISPs in a highly transparent and democratic manner. Pro critiques this by questioning the possibility of the FCC acting in a “highly transparent and democratic manner” and argues that this is an “unachieved goal for decades” and that the whole point of government is “built around the concept of being transparent and democratic.” This rebuttal misses the point of my hypothetical scenario. The feasibility of this scenario bears little relevance because the whole point of this hypothetical scenario is to be far-fetched, because in doing so, it shows that Pro’s freedom of speech argument does not apply in all scenarios, and thus, we can’t reject net neutrality as a principle, or concept – merely recent forms of its legislation.
One final argument relevant to the FCC that Pro makes against my argument that TVs and radios can’t be compared with the Internet, because of the way information is transferred in each medium. Pro responds by citing Section 706 and Title II. But this completely misses the point of my argument. My argument was not to do with how the FCC oversees the various mediums, but how they act in regulating information. In addition, Pro has not elaborated at all on how net neutrality fails to take into consideration differences between such mediums, and how I have undermined my own case.
By the end of the debate, Pro concedes that he was only making a comparison. In contrast, at the beginning of the debate, he was adamant about the possibility of the US’s internet being similar to China’s, even invoking Negri’s statement that “Americans may unwittingly be on the road to ceding power to forces that can use the Internet against them, as is seen in China every day.” Pro is correct in saying that we should note similarities between the two, and the outcomes of various policies in other countries. But it we only do this, then that leaves Pro with no real argument to enforce, and he does not sufficiently clarify his position on this issue, especially considering his change of view since Round 2. If he is still arguing that net neutrality would lead to Internet with similarities to that seen in China, then it still is a slippery slope. If he is arguing that we merely should be cautious, and take this into consideration, then there is no rationale for rejecting net neutrality; we could still accept it, but just be cautious.
It is important to note that a essentially of this section (as left by Pro in his final round) is based on the assumption that the FCC is against freedom of speech, and would set limits on what one would do on the Internet. This is an assumption that has been debated throughout this debate, but falls short of establishing that a net benefit would be reached without net neutrality. This is because – as I have argued for many times in this debate - it takes a narrow scope, rather than a broad scope regarding net neutrality – it is focussing on specific forms of net neutrality legislation, rather than net neutrality as a principle, or a concept.
Once again, Pro has failed to show how the descriptive statement to the normative statement. He merely complains that my attempts to “philosophically analyse this practice is simply an attempt to distract from the real issue.” However, firstly, as Pro himself notes, I have conceded that there are differences between the bandwidth needs of various content. However, it is completely false to say that I am “looking for a debate on economics” as Pro claims. It is also untrue that the real issue is “that content is priced differently as a result of product cost differential”. As a matter of fact, I argue that the real issue is to do with moral philosophy.
This is because Pro is arguing that ISPs ought to be charging differently based on the type of content. Naturally, this leads into the realm of moral philosophy, because such a realm deals with what is right and what is wrong, what ought to be done, what ought not to be done; the normative aspects. Of course, positive economics is relevant to some extent. However, in this case, it is concerning the descriptive aspect of content, but not what ought to happen; the normative aspect. Pro hasn’t really addressed this problem; instead, he keeps trying to push us back to a debate on the descriptive statement.
Pro appeals to the fact that prices should be varying because to make a profit because “it is common business practice”. However, this doesn’t lead logically to the conclusion that the prices should be varying. Simply because something is common business practice does not mean that this is right, or should be allowed in policy.
Consequently, we have seen no compelling reason that ISPs should be pricing content differently, as per their bandwidth needs. We have merely seen that different content have different bandwidth needs.
One thing to note is that Pro has completely dropped his argument that there is empirical evidence showing that regulation of telecommunications companies in Europe leads to less innovation, and has negative effects, such as limiting consumer access to the Internet. Previously, I argued that this conclusion cannot be reached on the basis of the evidence he has provided, because it does not show a causal relationship between the two. Furthermore, I provided a study by Chang et.al which shows that net neutrality has the opposite effect on innovation as Pro claims; it is actually beneficial in regard to innovation (especially infrastructure), rather than detrimental. Pro has not attempted to refute this evidence. Thus, it can be concluded that there are no good reasons to believe that innovation will be negatively affected by net neutrality, only positively affected.
Pro appears to concede that an ISP’s pricing plan as advocated by him is also dependant on the ISP’s actions. However, he still argues that network congestion is more likely to be solved without net neutrality than with net neutrality. His argument relies on the premise that “with net neutrality, ISPs are not required to upgrade their systems.” Firstly, this is completely unjustified. It is also clearly false. In the previous round, I brought up McKay’s observation that network congestion is also due to the ISP’s method of data transmission between different servers. We can extend this to show that with net neutrality, ISPs have an incentive to upgrade this servers. This stems from the fact that because ISPs are not able to introduce their pricing schemes, they must find different ways to deal with net congestion, such as upgrading their systems. Conversely, if net neutrality was not introduced, and ISPs were to introduce a pricing scheme as advocated by Pro, they would have no incentive in upgrading their systems, because the problem is already solved. Thus, Pro’s logic falls back on him.
This debate took an interesting direction (largely because I misread Pro’s Round 1 and thought that he had the sole BOP for a while), but nevertheless, as we are at the end of the debate, I contend that there are good reasons why the audience should vote Con.
(1) Pro has not fulfilled his burden of proof, because all of his arguments fail in one way or another. There are no successful arguments against net neutrality offered by Pro.
(2) I have shown that by refuting Pro’s arguments against net neutrality, I am implicitly making a case for net neutrality, due to the way Pro presents his case. This remained undisputed by Pro by the end of the debate.
(3) Pro has dropped many of his core arguments. For instance, his argument about Europe’s internet, and his argument that a rejection of net neutrality fuels competition (note that he never addressed this, after I called out his bare assertion in Round 2.)
(4) I have made positive arguments that have been unrefuted and untouched by Pro. For instance, net neutrality is beneficial towards innovation (from Cheng et.al) and that net neutrality helps dissipate monopolies and duopolies (Round 2).
The resolution has been negated. ∴ vote Con.