With the upcoming FCC vote to abolish net neutrality provisions in the United States, I have read a tremendous amount about why net neutrality is a good thing and should be kept. What I haven't seen much of is why people would be opposed to it.

What are the main arguments against net neutrality?

Please add a source for each argument you mention in your answers, preferrably with a relevant quote.


4 Answers 4


The core question is "Who ought to control how the internet works?"

And is normally considered as "Who would screw it up worst?"

Opponents of Net Neutrality suggest it ought to grow however it will; letting anyone who can figure out a leverage to make a lot of money, and in principal letting people figure their own creative solutions around any leverage that becomes obnoxious.

They fear government intervention, and claim that once government starts to manage things the only solution to the problems that inevitably arise in any complex system seems to involve letting the government have more involvement.

It is also argued that a stratified internet is the desirable outcome.

The services willing to pay to have prioritized bandwidth are mostly entertainment based. If you assume that IPS have a profit goal entertainment paying more means other users effectively pay less, and non-entertainment uses of bandwidth are more interesting.

The burden of proof under Net Neutrality is on the ISP; they need to create and keep metrics of network use to support their policies, conceivably this is an added cost or hassle to the business.

  • They also continually ignore that NN is the literal opposite of government "managing the internet" -- all it does is tell ISPs that in exchange for effective near-monopolies on an increasingly vital service they're going to have to accept that they won't be allowed to gouge a captive market to their hearts' content. Dec 19, 2017 at 14:30
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    @Shadur If you have a better word choice I'm open to suggestion, but telling someone what to do or how to do it is what managing means, perhaps there is enough room to differ about what precisely "the internet" is to make managing ISP's distinct from managing it. Whether these arguments are sound or not is not really on topic, but one of the arguments listed is explicitly that they ought to gouge deeply where they can.
    – user9389
    Dec 20, 2017 at 0:47

There aren't many beneficial reasons for undoing net neutrality, at least for consumers and most businesses, but here are some of the arguments I've seen, many pulled from Ajit Pai's comments.

Some have argued that repeal restores internet freedom, of course, that's doublespeak, as it only restores freedom for ISPs. Kinda like how repealing the Bill of Rights would result in more freedom. This is also the same as the regulation argument: no regulation == good. Which, of course, is false. Some regulation is good.

Other arguments state that the internet was just fine before net neutrality. This is not factually accurate, as there were already moves by Comcast to deprioritize Netflix traffic. Eventually, Netflix had to pay Comcast to be reprioritized. Also, the internet isn't some static entity. It's use is always expanding. Video has exploded as has games, etc. As more of these additional uses are brought to market, especially high bandwidth ones, there will be pressure from the ISP's to restrict their traffic further.

This is also similar to the argument that the lack of previous government regulation is what allowed the internet to grow. While that may be true or not, it doesn't mean that net neutrality is a bad thing. In fact, by creating an open playing field, it should actually foster more competition, which usually helps with growth.

Pai also argues that net neutrality limits investments in networks by ISPs. This also isn't factual. There is evidence that it actually increased for some ISPs.

Pai says that smaller ISPs can't deal with the side effects of net neutrality, thus innovation is stifled. This is a narrow view. Let's assume he is correct, even though he didn't provide hard evidence. Innovation occurs beyond just ISPs. There are lots of companies and products that operate over the internet and net neutrality allows them equal access to all consumers. The innovation that brings far outweighs "lost innovation" from ISPs.

EDIT: Let me add a few additional arguments: One concern is that limiting the ability to control traffic over your network may have serious consequences. For example, an ISP may need to restrict bit torrent traffic, as it is responsible for a growing amount of bandwidth. It's possible traffic like this could reduce people's throughput, the throughput they are paying for from their ISPs. It's seems reasonable that an ISP could slow this down, at least until their infrastructure can handle it. Comcast, before NN, actually began blocking bit torrent traffic. Regardless, there was a provision for reasonable network management in the net neutrality rules, so this argument isn't really valid.

Pai said he wants an level playing field, and cites AMP and promoted tweets as examples where companies don't play fair. AMP, as far as I can tell is merely a distribution format and promoted tweets is how Twitter advertises. What Pai is actually saying is quite interesting. He is in fact saying that ISP's should be able to prioritize traffic based on who pays them, just as Twitter does with it's promoted tweets. This argument gets to the heart of the net neutrality debate. Pai and others feel ISPs should be allowed to prioritize traffic.


With the upcoming FCC vote to abolish net neutrality provisions in the United States

There is no upcoming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote to abolish net neutrality. The vote is to stop regulating internet service providers (ISPs) as common carriers (done by the FCC) and go back to regulating them through the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). A side effect of this is to abolish all the FCC regulations and restore the FTC regulations.

From Fast Company:

Why? Classifying ISPs as “common carriers,” under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, means they could be regulated like monopolies. That could go as far as setting rates for broadband, like public utilities commissions do for electricity, according to ISPs and other critics. Tom Wheeler’s FCC promised not to go this far, by forbearing, or refraining, from utilizing most of Title II. “In finding that broadband internet access service is subject to Title II, we simultaneously exercise the Commission’s forbearance authority to forbear from 30 statutory provisions and render over 700 codified rules inapplicable,” the Order reads.

Net neutrality was the excuse that the Barack Obama administration used to make ISPs common carriers. The stated reason for this was that the existing law was not able to regulate tightly enough to implement net neutrality. Because this move was controversial, at the same time, they limited its immediate impact. However, those limitations are purely regulatory in nature. A future administration could remove them without any legislation.

TL;DR: ISPs dislike common carrier status because it subjects them to more onerous and intrusive regulations.


The main argument is that what net-neutrality is. That is the imposition of regulations and monitoring of companies by the federal government. A secondary argument is that net-neutrality is a solution in search of a problem. For example, the Comcast choking of bandwidth of Bit-Torrent users which was found without any federal regulations.

Expanding on the regulations of government imposed on any private company. Any regulation has the effect of raising the barrier to entry and the on-going cost of doing business. In this case, it is argued that the government will have no incentive to guard the best interest of the people since the agency that will be imposing and policing the industry are a group of un-elected officials. Further, as the only incentive of those in charge of appointing officials is lobbyist, only the most wealthiest companies will have a say on who get preferential treatment. Without net-neutrality, it is argued that the people can vote with their wallets and go to the competition.

Competition: There is now many more choices in getting internet access than when net neutrality was first brought forth. Every cell-phone company is in the ISP business. Satellite, while not as affordable cable or dsl, is within reach of many people. Over the air companies in the style of Windstream are also getting in the game. Cable companies are struggling with TV content and declining viewers while still sticking to the old business models of the 90s and not realizing that customers don't care about channel loyalty. The connection to net-neutrality is that any company that starts problems, enforces a contract, or does not cater to consumers will just be blacklisted.

The argument that NN is a solution in search of a problem can be explained by noting that technology that brings the internet is continually changing and such a short amount of time that by the time any regulation is put on the books, they are obsolete. For example, the recent capitulation of cell phone companies to providing unlimited internet. What incentive will there be for getting cable tv when you can just broadcast you phone screen to the TV. Speaking of cell phone companies, Verizon's unlimitted plan, even under current NN regulation is allowed to throttle your bandwidth after 20GB based on some arbitrary "if-the-cell-tower-is-too-busy". By the time the government moves to plug that hole it is too late, T-Mobile saw this and started advertising "True Unlimitted".

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    Can you back this answer up? Dec 14, 2017 at 13:56
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    For the vast majority of Americans, there really aren't more ISP options. The US lags behind most every other developed nation in terms of both access and speed to the internet. (However, that doesn't mean it's not an argument that gets used...as flawed as it is...)
    – user1530
    Dec 14, 2017 at 14:48
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    Please note that Politics Stackexchange is not a discussion forum. That means when a question asks for arguments, then it is not expected that people post their arguments but rather arguments made by relevant politicians. That's why the question specifically asked for sources.
    – Philipp
    Dec 14, 2017 at 16:34
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    "Without net-neutrality, it is argued that the people can vote with their wallets and go to the competition." - please explain how Comcast customers who don't have an alternative can vote with their wallets if Comcast strangles Netflix traffic. You assume a fair market, but unregulated markets are not fair: they become monopolies/oligopols. Dec 15, 2017 at 9:20
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    @FrankCedeno You are mixing company roles: The role of an ISP is to provide unfiltered and neutral network access (like a phone company) - not to prioritize some traffic and slow down other. You don't want your phone company to lower the quality of connections to some of your friends unless you or they pay more, don't you? Dec 18, 2017 at 19:28

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