In this debate, both sides are talking out of both sides of their mouths. As usual.
Certainly, competition is better than regulation. But that is not the choice before us. Why? Because…
There is no real competition.
There is only oligopoly. Ownership of the infrastructure – the internet backbone – is split only eight ways, and of these eight, five are bit players: Cogent (26%), Level 3 (24%), AT&T (14%), Verizon (9%), CenturyLink (9%), XO (7%), GTT (6%), Sprint (4%), where the numbers in parentheses are rough estimates of market share.
Thus, whether through government-industry revolving doors or private-sector back-room collusion, the internet is what the oligarchs say it is.
Therefore, the net-neutrality debate doesn’t really matter.
What really matters is that there is no free market.
And no matter who wins the debate, there will still be no free market.
The only way for the state to safeguard a free market is to enact strong anti-trust laws and enforce them vigorously. But it has done neither, and shows no interest in starting. Existing anti-trust laws are weak and enforced unenthusiastically, if at all.
If the biggest player were restricted to less than 0.1% of the market, then we would have something resembling a free market.
The same argument applies, of course, in every other major industry: mass media, banking, energy, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Regarding all of these, no less than telecommunications and internet backbone providers, the whole public debate is framed – by both sides – to exclude the only question that really matters: