Amazon has done two headline-making things recently that bear heavily on the logic of anybody’s argument for or against net neutrality (which I shall herein confine solely to the simplistic consideration of the issue as: can the companies who own the copper/fiber/spectrum upon which web traffic travels throttle that traffic based on fee schedules?).

First, Amazon is in discussions with the USPS for Sunday delivery, and second, Amazon apparently plays hardball with publishers with respect to selling books in a timely fashion if the publishers don’t do what Amazon wants.

Here is the logic that the pro net neutrality crowd must wrestle with:

Should (in a legal sense) Amazon be allowed to control what it sells on its website?

If you answered no to the above question, then here’s a question:

Should I be allowed drive your car whenever I want?

Why ask these particular questions? Because the questions are about property rights. So is net neutrality. Somebody owns the copper/fiber/spectrum that enables the internet. Why shouldn’t those owners be allowed to do whatever they want with their property?

Or, think about the issue from the USPS-Amazon perspective: if it’s OK for the USPS to cut a deal with Amazon for Sunday delivery (a sort of snail mail fast lane), why isn’t it OK for the owners of the copper to cut a deal with Netflix for faster delivery?

The issue is certainly complicated, and people like Marc Andreessen get that and speak about the issue rationally. But for all its complication, there is (at least) one thing underlying the issue that isn’t complicated: somebody – not the government – owns the copper/fiber/spectrum. The consideration of private property rights HAS to be central to the discussion; and if you argue for strict net neutrality you have to consider what that means for your own personal property rights in some potential future world.

-JD Cross