It seems odd that net neutrality is associated with the liberal left, with the canonical right-wing argument being that neutrality is a kind of enforced anti-market equality . However, a perfectly decent argument could be made from a pro-capitalist standpoint that net neutrality is a desirable aim.
At the core of one such argument is the idea of an easy-entry space in which entrepreneurialism can occur. It is clear that different markets have different entry requirements—starting up a business online is trivial, starting a shop or market stall fairly low entry, whilst starting a broadcast TV station is complex and expensive. We can imagine what a different country we would live in if, to open a shop, you had to agree with a national chain of shopping malls to open a shop in every location simultaneously, and no individual shops were available.
Other costs of doing business also benefit from a comparable neutrality—for example, the neutral transport and logistics infrastructure means that you can readily shift small amounts of goods around the country via postal and courier firms, not have to have a complex logistics contract in place before you can start a small business.
The creation of easy-entry spaces is a core activity of pro-business governments throughout the world, who are prepared to throw large amounts of money at smoothing out this entry point, through the creation of enterprise zones, regional development agencies, business hubs, science parks and so on.
The neutral net is, in many ways, an ideal enterprise zone; and, what’s more, it is entirely self-sustaining. It seems astonishing that pro-business governments would be prepared to throw this away, when they are getting for free what in other domains they throw vast amounts of public sector money at, often without much success.
Perhaps the key difference here isn’t right- vs. left-, its big vs. small or new vs. old. In many ways, the non-neutral net, like broadcast TV, is a big/old favouring medium; so is the “big socialism” of e.g. Soviet Russia. Both of these have a high entry cost for new activity; in broadcast TV, the “block size” of entity you ned to create is large; in a big socialist system the complexity of the planning system plays a similar role. In a smaller/new-focused organisation, neutrality aids innovation, whether in a more capitalist-focused system (e.g. a market stall) or in a social-oriented system (think about a student union where the preconditions for setting up a student society are that you have 20 students interested).
The diagram that has been kicking around for years comparing the non-neutral net to a subscription TV channel is a very succinct summary of the issues here.
And yet, perhaps this matters less now that in did a few years ago. Increasingly, it is the large websites—facebook, Amazon, YouTube—that are the infrastructure of the net, not individual company sites. This is evidenced by the increasing trend of companies to include www.facebook.com/example as the link in advertising, rather than www.example.com; similarly, a service like about.me, which presents a brief bio, photo and list of social networking sites as a replacement for the traditional “home page”. So, perhaps neutrality matters less to the entrepreneur—as long as potential customers can access these base, neutral platforms, that’s okay, and they will surely be including in the “basic package” for most internet services. But, it seems terribly risky to predicate the success of your business on the ongoing commitment of these firms to continue to provide a neutral platform.