...the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favour; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had the actual experience of it.
This concept played out like a whining symphony in the 1980s, when educrats and establishment media howled about the dangers of reducing FCC restrictions on radio stations. In those days, the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" imposed a bureaucratic regimen that partially dictated content and limited the potential of talk radio. The rollback of the doctrine brought Americans an imperfect renaissance of their own in that format. It at least advanced the state of U.S. media to a position where two viewpoints were now widely broadcast: liberal and conservative, as opposed to just liberal.
Today the defenders of America's 100,000-page-long list of rules (or at least part of it) have a different FCC pullback proposal to howl about, a different slight reduction of communication restrictions.
But if crypto entrepreneur Akin Fernandez had his way, the regulations under scrutiny would not be called by their Orwellian name: "Net Neutrality." The somewhat-mysterious author/software developer has written for Crypto Insider and other tech publications. He's emerged as a vocal foe of the Obama-era rules, which promised to give us more freedom through restriction and which now inspires busybodies to bark orders at your ISP for you.
Fernandez runs bitcoin startup Azte.co and more relevantly twitter.com/Beautyon, which has unloaded a Steady Stream of Strident against the defenders of NN as this issue reheats. He "joins" us by e-mail:
Crypto Insider: What do you think Net Neutrality should be called instead?
Akin Fernandez: The “American Socialist Internet Directive.” That is a far more honest and descriptive title.
Crypto Insider: What would be the implications for the crypto community if (FCC chair) Ajit Pai gets his current proposal through to lift some of the regs? What do you expect *will* actually get through, and what implications do you think *that* will have?
Fernandez: I’m more interested in the principle, which is ISPs own their equipment and pay for the bandwidth they package and resell to consumers. It is not “your internet connection” as the Net Neutrality advocates like to characterize it; you are obtaining a service under contract, and do not own anything beyond your own equipment. Everyone has the right to offer services to others on whatever terms are acceptable to them, and no one has the right to force you to serve other people; that is slavery. In a free market, you are able to choose between different providers of services, and the free market is the most efficient and ethical way to do that. The FCC is unconstitutional and should be abolished. They distort and damage the economy and hold back progress. For a clear description of why this is true, read, Against Intellectual Monopoly by Boldrin and Levine. It’s frightening that a panel of six men can decide the fate of one of the most important industries on Earth. Shocking in fact.
Crypto Insider: Can you be specific about what part of the system you're attacking on your Twitter?
Fernandez: Internet Service Providers are private companies owned by American Citizens. They have property rights. Americans can’t be forced to work for other people; the USA is meant to be a free country where everyone has their rights protected. Of course, it doesn’t work like that in practice, because America has been corrupted. This is why there is an FCC and Net Neutrality where there should be neither. The State isn’t required to “regulate” the economy, not only is regulation unethical and un-American, it’s impractical and inefficient.
Crypto Insider: You've indicated Net Neutrality regs are unnecessary to make Net providers treat small customers right, that competitors will replace them if they fail in this regard. But how practical is it for internet-providing competitors to spring up in today's heavy regulatory environment?
Fernandez: You say “treat small customers right.” What does this mean exactly? The connection quality and cost borne by every customer is very important to that customer and is not a small thing. Companies in a free market are forced to treat each customer as special. If they don’t, they go out of business. The government is not required to make people behave correctly and offer quality products and services; in fact, the vast majority of goods and services are unregulated. Underwriter’s Laboratory is a perfect example of the market regulating itself. This isn’t a matter of what is practical; this is a matter of ethics. Regulation is harmful, both to businesses and consumers.
Also, if the regulatory environment (which actually means The State) is keeping competition from happening, then it is that that needs to be abolished, and not more of what is wrong applied to every problem. "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." This is very true; more government to solve a problem government created is absolute insanity. Even dogs learn from their mistakes.
The FDA is another example of the State interfering with business to the detriment of citizens. Many drugs that are available outside of America are denied to American patients simply because they haven't been “approved”, in processes that can take as long as a decade. And the FDA can’t regulate away side effects, which would be there regulation or not. It’s easy to call for other people to be harmed when it’s not your activities and ability to serve others that is being damaged, and you have no stake in the outcome.
Crypto Insider: I can't find them now, but you've listed some concerns on your Twitter which were, as I recall, concerns about the threat which Net Neutrality poses to crypto. Can you elaborate, and perhaps put the shoe on the other foot: To what extent is crypto a danger to government-enforcement of Net Neutrality laws and how?
Fernandez: If the government can mandate that companies shape traffic, they can mandate that you roll back the transaction record of your cryptocurrency. Etherium has already done this, and I guarantee you that when an institutional investor loses money because the DAO hacker wants to have some fun at Etherium’s expense (literally) then that institution will sue Vitalik Buterin to have the record rolled back and the funds restored. They will say, “you did it before, now you will do it for us, or you will be in Contempt of Court”, and they will not take no for an answer.
Of course, you and I know that Bitcoin cannot and will not ever be rolled back for anyone, but what can happen is that it may begin to dawn on the State that it can put pressure on businesses to add mandatory insurance and other worthless business layer nonsense into operations in light of the fact that Bitcoin cannot be reversed. The bad principle that Net Neutrality introduces is that the State has a role to play in the specification of services offered to the public, which of course, it should have no role in whatsoever.
While I have it in mind, mandatory hack insurance for Bitcoin businesses will cause the number of hacks to increase. Inside jobs will become lucrative, as everyone knows the money will be replaced. None of these arbitrary rules comes without an unseen cost, as Bastiat teaches us.
Crypto Insider: How close is the world to a second Internet or a real decentralization of the Net, so no one can control it anyway? It seems at though it's been an idea for such a long time but one which is taking forever to become reality. What do you think is the holdup, and what role if any do you see blockchain tech playing in bringing it about?
Fernandez: People are talking about this and the intelligent ones realize that this power grab is just a foretaste of what will come next if Net Neutrality is not incinerated and the ashes scattered. Let me make myself clear. Net Neutrality people are not ill-intentioned; they simply don’t understand economics, can’t see into the future, are impatient and need to be given new tools as finished pieces of work.
For years people thought that Bitcoin was literally impossible and that the double spending problem would never be solved. Even when it was presented to them as a working system they refused to believe that it was real. Today, Net Neutrality advocates can’t imagine a world where the internet is left entirely to private business to manage. Bitcoin proves that something complex on a global scale can be organised entirely without the “help” of the State. This is another reason why people hate Bitcoin; it thumbs its nose at Statists, and it’s why so many are desperate to infect it with “Governance”. They simply can’t believe that something this big, powerful and important can run without hierarchical management. Bitcoin running perfectly for nine years is a very profound lesson about control for anyone paying attention. Bitcoin is teaching people how to create a robust management system where no one is in charge, and everyone’s money is kept safe.
Crypto Insider: There's this voluntaryist concept that you can't get to freedom thru regulation. But to what extent does it concern you that U.S. mega-corporations can push the government toward changes that favor them, while average people can't even get its attention?
Fernandez: It is a simple fact that regulation and liberty are mutually exclusive. Only people weaned on the teat of Orwell think “Regulation is Freedom.” Using the term “mega corporations” is misleading and emotionalism. There is nothing wrong with being rich and using capital; it’s how that capital is used that matters, and whether or not there is a free market. Crony Capitalism is the real problem, where the State is weaponized to stifle and kill competition. We’ve just seen this happen in South Korea, where Apple’s offices were raided just before the iPhone X was to be launched there. That sort of violence is what you should be concerned about, not the fact that there are large businesses making a lot of money through serving the public. Your problem is the State, not business. And today more than ever, “average” people can change the world, even with a single Tweet.
Crypto Insider: You've outlined some historical precedents which give us a glimpse of how the market might eliminate the problem Net Neutrality laws are touted to eliminate. Can you tell us more about the ways in which the markets eliminated filtering of content in the past?
Fernandez: There is nothing wrong with filtering content. Millennials conflate censorship, which is the government using force to stop people from publishing, transmitting and speaking with curation or moderation which is the absolute right of all platform, gallery, publishing house and newspaper owners. Censorship only comes from the State; the very thing Net Neutrality people are calling upon to hurt others.
What Net Neutrality people are advocating is analogous to users of a service having a right to insert their text and images into other people’s publications. They think that because a company owns property, somehow the people who own it relinquish their rights simply because they are successful, and by dint of that, “Fairness Doctrine,” “Net Neutrality” and “Right of Reply” suddenly become legitimate. They don’t.
In a free market, if you don’t like the newspaper you are reading you stop buying it. If you can’t find one that tells you what you want to hear, you start one yourself. The government should have nothing to do with the content of websites or newspapers, or how and on what terms they are delivered, and Congress still doesn’t understand this, despite swearing an oath to defend The Constitution, as we’ve seen with the recent shocking “Fake News” hearings on The Hill where companies are asked what they are going to do to silence publications they don’t like.
Once again, this is a matter of principle; your right to publish, your right to own a business, your right to live free from coercion. All of these things are threatened by the State. ISPs are not your enemy, and in the absence of the State, they would have no means to stop new entrants coming onto the market for the provision of any service, from ISPs to TV stations; innovating to bring you faster connections on new terms that are better for you than your current ISP.
Crypto Insider: Is it wise to be using the term that your enemies coined while you're attacking their plans? The thing you're against isn't their soothing term but rather the iron fist that would be behind it, correct?
Fernandez: The term needs to be used so we can explain that “Net Neutrality” is neither Neutral or anything to do with the idea of the Net. It has to be unpacked for readers to show how they are being lied to.
CI: I'm assuming you're not against actual "neutrality" in the way a service provides "net." To what extent did most internet companies already provide net neutrality on their own before there were Fed rules requiring it?
Fernandez: You are wrong. I am for the free market. If an ISP wants to throttle services, block services or do anything it wants in the service it provides under explicit terms of its contract with you, that is entirely their business. I am not a violent man who thinks he has the right to tell other people how to serve their customers. People don’t understand what rights are and where they come from, and that you can’t throw away rights because it’s expedient.
There are places where the choices of ISP are limited. That gives the public a huge amount of power; of course, the Net Neutrality crowd falsely believes that the ISPs have power over their customers. But think about this; imagine if millions of people suddenly decided that they would delay their monthly payment to their ISP in protest. A withering attack like that would be a very big wake up call to the ISP. Rather than sign worthless petitions or call for violence against ISPs, a much better campaign of switching off the money in protest would be far more effective. “You either serve us the way we want to be served, or you go out of business”. And this wouldn't be an idle threat either, as the money stopping would demonstrate.
The Net Neutrality crowd however, is made up of professional protesters who don’t want solutions to any problem to be found; their life’s work is perpetual protesting. It doesn't matter what the protests are; if there is a protest, they are there. This is why you seen the same faces decade after decade, issue after issue. I (and other capitalists) are interested in solving problems and serving people, not destroying other people’s property, threatening them and using violence against them.
You can have the internet connection you can afford. In an ideal market, you can group together to form your own ISP and deliver bandwidth on terms that are acceptable to you and your constituents. If the braying Net Neutrality mob pooled their resources to start a pure ISP, they would be solving the problem directly, and not just complaining about it, asking for others to be harmed. The fact of the matter is they can’t solve any problem, not just this one. Their entire philosophy is worthless.
CI: What is an example of a "nice thing we can't have" because of current Net Neutrality regs?
Fernandez: If you are an ISP, the ability to segment your capacity and charge for it in a way that is advantageous to you. The key word in your question is “we”. Who is the “we” that you are talking about? ISP owners and users are not in an us and them opposition, unless you are a Communist that believes that all businessmen are black hatted cigar smoking monsters. ISPs want to serve their customers and make a profit. They are no different to Apple. Apple’s products give you fare more value than the amount of money you pay for them. The things you can do with an iPhone are the stuff of science fiction. ISPs using traffic shaping and entering into content delivery deals clearly have a revenue problem they need to solve. Perhaps if they were taxed a 0% they would not need to traffic shape and throttle. We will never know, because the market it distorted, and ISPs can’t act rationally.
It must be said also, that the slowdown people are worried about would leave them with a speed that is many times faster than the 14.4k modem speeds of the early internet, and as speeds get faster across the entire net, most of the applications and services we use today will function perfectly. We will eventually reach a point where everyone is on a pipe that is fast enough. Today. people living in rural England can get 10m down for a cheap price, and in Korea, they get an average of 26m down, and the world average is 7m. This is very fast, enough for essentially anything, and it’s going to get faster, even on segmented and parcelled ISP packages.
CI: So, if you're against government-imposed net neutrality, why are you so worried right now? It seems as though the government is trying to end it's imposition of the practice, and if it fails to deregulate then things just stay the way they are, correct? Do we really have some degradation in the situation that we must fear?
Fernandez: I’m talking about the principle, and extrapolating. If they can impose Net Neutrality on ISPs they can impose INSERT INDUSTRY Neutrality on anything, even extending to Bitcoin and what you call “Crypto Currencies”. The lawmakers are computer illiterates and economic illiterates to boot. They are unethical and incompetent. Anyone who thinks they're the answer to anything is insane. If you must fear something, fear the regulator and legislator. Look no further than the BitLicence to see how wrong regulators can get something and the catastrophic, devastating impact it can have on businesses and users.
CI: Do you have a sense that the current FCC plan will increase or decrease the amount of regulation on the books? Will it increase or decrease the number of things the government forbids, and by how much?
Fernandez: I don’t have any sense about any of it. All I know is that regulation is a bad thing, and removing it is a good thing. The FCC is unconstitutional. It should not even exist, and we should not be discussing this at all.
CI: The Internet seems to be working fairly well, and as you pointed out the Facebook Problem of traffic being centralized...is potentially solvable without government intervention, just as the market helped us move past the AOL stage. If The Net is not broken, why do we need these FCC changes to fix it?
Fernandez: It seems like that to you, because you have no part in managing it. You bear no costs beyond your monthly fees, and regulation does not impact your bottom line, or cause you to write software to cater to others by force. To you, this is all theoretical. To business owners, this is quite real and is a real threat.
There is no need for the FCC, SEC, FinCEN or any of these unconstitutional bodies to regulate the internet, Bitcoin, databases or anything else. The problems in the market are not potentially solvable, they are absolutely solvable, and we know this from direct observation; it isn’t speculation or wishful thinking. There are many projects that show how connections can be brought to people. Airborne Wireless Network is a company that uses commercial aircraft in the sky to provide wireless. Because there are so many planes in the air every day of the year, they can be used to create a network with a large footprint. Google is working on balloons to provide a connection to many people.
These are just two examples that have managed to make it to the market in this toxic anti-capitalist environment; imagine how many other novel solutions would be made available in a free market?
Featured image from Shutterstock
Disclaimer: this is an opinion piece and the views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent Crypto Insider.