Is the Net Neutrality Debate a Pointless Distraction?

“People may scream at me for saying this, but net neutrality is one of America’s longest and now most pointless fights over technology.” So argues the New York Times “On Tech” newsletter author Shira Ovide, calling the debate “a distraction for our elected leaders and corporations when there are more pressing issues.”

Ovide also shares their discussion with Times technology and regulatory policy reporter Cecila Kang:

Kang: You can see the appeal of rules that make sure internet providers don’t stall web traffic unless it’s from their preferred business partners or their own streaming services. However, the debate feels much less urgent now that we’re talking about threats of online disinformation about vaccine deployment and elections. The net neutrality debate focused on internet service providers as powerful gatekeepers of internet information. That term now seems better applied to Facebook, Google and Amazon….

Ovide: Internet providers, public interest groups, some tech companies and a bunch of our elected leaders have been screaming holy war about an issue for 13 years without a resolution. Can they reach a middle ground and we’ll all move on?

Kang: There probably isn’t much of a middle ground. There are either net neutrality rules or there aren’t. And the internet service providers see net neutrality as a slippery slope that leads to broader regulation of high-speed internet services or government-imposed limits on prices they can charge. They will fight any regulation. And that’s true, too, of the lobbyists who are hired to argue against anything.

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