Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Traffic Is Way Up and the Internet Seems Fine. Did We Maybe Spend Too Much Time Ferociously Debating Net Neutrality?

 

A 1990 coronavirus pandemic would have been even worse than today’s version. Sure, there would have been less capability to rapidly produce therapeutics and vaccines. But also no internet economy to keep us connected via Facebook, Google Meet, and Zoom. And no Amazon to bring us all manner of essential items without breaking quarantine. There would have been no curve flattening or crushing back then.

So thank goodness the internet hasn’t buckled, much less broken. Unlike in Europe, for instance, Netflix and YouTube haven’t been forced to slow down streaming speeds and reduce video quality due to higher usage. Everything here still seems to be working pretty well. But it’s easy to imagine that not being the case. As journalist Charles Fishman reports in The Atlantic, US internet traffic carried by AT&T surged 20 percent in mid-March, with workweek network traffic now up a steady 25 percent from the pre-pandemic period.

“That may not sound like much,” Fishman explains, “but imagine suddenly needing to add 20 percent more long-haul trucks to U.S. highways instantly, or 20 percent more freight trains, or 20 percent more flights every day out of every airport in the country. In fact, none of those infrastructure systems could have provided 20 percent more capacity instantly—or sustained it day after day for months.”

Yet our digital infrastructure has met the challenge. Or to put it another way, all those hysterical predictions about how repealing net neutrality back in 2018 would ruin the internet haven’t panned out. At least not yet. Of course, some net neutrality proponents seem to have missed the good news. Or refused to accept it. Take this bizarre and cognitively dissonant headline from Wired magazine: “The Covid-19 Pandemic Shows the Virtues of Net Neutrality: Network speeds are holding up despite the crush of internet traffic. Freed from rules, broadband providers have cut investment in their systems.” Eppur si muove.

But rather than see this technology success story as a powerful data point for America’s current light-touch regulatory regime, some will continue to demand more government control. Indeed, these are probably the same folks who see Amazon’s impressive ability to weather the pandemic as, somehow, proof the company should be nationalized. It’s a “Now more than ever!” kind of thing, I guess.

One other lesson that should be learned: Apply deep skepticism to extreme activist claims that this or that policy tweak will save or destroy the American economy or some big chunk of it.

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  1. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    I’d tell you but I already died because of its repeal.

    • #1
    • May 11, 2020, at 3:04 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    All my nightmares have been located in our work servers. They were all there before, though.

    • #2
    • May 11, 2020, at 4:21 PM PDT
    • Like
  3. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    My work’s intranet is currently slow as molasses, and I work for a government!

    • #3
    • May 11, 2020, at 6:34 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    Contrast this with the experience of Europe, where throttling was common. Because we DO NOT have Net Neutrality, streaming companies like Netflix are able to add caching appliances in strategic locations, which saved a lot of long-haul capacity. 

    • #4
    • May 11, 2020, at 7:20 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Al Sparks Thatcher

    To answer the question, the answer is no. But the proponents did. We had no choice but to continue arguing against.

    • #5
    • May 11, 2020, at 8:06 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    A 1990 coronavirus pandemic would have been even worse than today’s version. Sure, there would have been less capability to rapidly produce therapeutics and vaccines. But also no internet economy to keep us connected via Facebook, Google Meet, and Zoom. And no Amazon to bring us all manner of essential items without breaking quarantine. There would have been no curve flattening or crushing back then.

     

    We can partially blame Facebook, Google, Zoom, Netflix, YouTube and Amazon for the fool’s errand called ‘flattening the curve’

     

     

    • #6
    • May 11, 2020, at 10:54 PM PDT
    • Like
  7. Stad Thatcher

    I say thank goodness for the internet! I would’ve gone bonkers if I couldn’t buy books and games, or shop for the three birthdays happening during the lockdown.

    • #7
    • May 12, 2020, at 5:58 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Pethokoukis: Take this bizarre and cognitively dissonant headline from Wired magazine: “The Covid-19 Pandemic Shows the Virtues of Net Neutrality: Network speeds are holding up despite the crush of internet traffic. Freed from rules, broadband providers have cut investment in their systems.” Eppur si muove.

    Maybe the writer was high on cheap drugs? I recall that when Net Neutrality was implemented it resulted in substantial cuts in broadband providers building out their networks. They still increased capacity, but at a much slower rate than before NN. I assume that when NN was repealed they went back to increasing capacity.

    • #8
    • May 14, 2020, at 1:15 PM PDT
    • 1 like