Net Neutrality – This Is Serious

Woke up this mornin‘, had those hijacked e-mail blues..

I appreciate the concern of those who e-mailed, texted, or called me to let me know.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve resolved the issue that had everyone in my address book being told I was in Spain and needed money to get home.
The e-mail address associated with this blog was not the one affected.

I’m continuing to mull over the increasing attention that the concept of Net Neutrality is receiving in the mainstream media of late.

The most recent developments seem to have more to do with the attempts by some of the wireless phone companies, at least one (Verizon) in cahoots with Google, to marginalize efforts to assure that, to quote Columbia University professor Tim Wu, the Internet remains “a maximally useful public information network (that) aspires to treat all content, sites, and platforms equally”.

There are all kinds of pundits and professional experts expanding on the policy statement issued by Google last week, one week after the New York Times reported that they would. I don’t have time to analyze it in detail, at least not for free. My concerns come from these fundamental bullet points that Google led things off with:

1. Users should choose what content, applications, or devices they use, since openness has been central to the explosive innovation that has made the Internet a transformative medium.

2. America must continue to encourage both investment and innovation to support the underlying broadband infrastructure; it is imperative for our global competitiveness.

The subtle differences in language that many might gloss over on the first reading – but are central to the argument – were the first things that I noticed about these statements. Note how “users should choose” instead of “users must be able to choose”.

This is likely a tilt of the cap to Apple, which decides for its users what applications they can use with devices like the iPhone, by restricting those applications to only those which are approved and can be obtained from Apple itself.

The second bullet point basically says to me that broadband services, via fiber and commercial wireless, will not grow unless investment capital is attracted. Apparently, the wireless companies don’t think this can happen unless they have the ability to create different tiers of information flow, thus compromising neutrality, as an incentive to attract that capital investment.

Hypothetically, this could mean that websites that include embedded advertising for Coca-Cola products will receive priority handling over those with Pepsi ads, because Coke has paid your wireless provider for the privilege. The same could be said for all manner of perceived ‘competitive’ content – including sites from non-profits or political campaigns.

I’m not a technocrat, so I’ll just cut to the chase:

  • Information on the Internet must be allowed to flow without encumbrances like the above.
  • Access to information from websites like this little blog must be able to travel through the Internet at the same speed as the Drudge Report or the Huffington Post.
  • The Internet cannot be allowed to become a bastion of privilege for those who desire to impact and/or control the flow of information, and have the means to accomplish those ends.

The Tea Party movement has come out against Net Neutrality in a letter signed jointly by several Tea Party organizations across the country. They apparently view the issue through a glass that sees potential evil in all government regulation:

This has been debated almost incessantly since the story broke last Friday, but some of the more interesting observations came from the reporting and comments in The Hill:

The free-speech argument holds that, by interfering with how phone and cable companies deliver Internet traffic, the government would be thwarting the free-speech rights of providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.

So, it’s government efforts in assuring that Internet isn’t interfered with that these corporations see as interfering with putting forth whatever message they choose.

I think I will say to them what I used to say to dispatchers; your job is done much better when you act as a conduit, and not as a filter.

The Save The Internet Coalition has been on the forefront of this debate for several years. The latest news from this group, and a link to their website, will be at the top of the sidebar of this blog for the foreseeable future.

Those interested in how freely information flows through the Internet, and how much sway others will hold in how you access and deliver information through this tremendously powerful resource, should review the website information and consider adding your name to those who are alarmed at the developments of the past week.

I will pay particular attention to how this proposed “legislative framework” snakes its way through the halls of Congress and the FCC. I’m not happy with Google’s actions here. Suffice to say that if they continue to push this course of action I may see the need to relocate this blog from the Google-owned site that hosts it.

Have a good week ahead.

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