I am a big supporter of Net Neutrality. The Internet has ushered in an amazing era of growth for humanity. It has created a "gold rush" of fresh new ideas, start up businesses, and ingenuity. Business models that were not possible before, now are. Smaller "Mom and Pop" businesses are able to overcome their Wal-Mart induced blight of being drowned out in their own neighborhoods by being able to expand their market to the whole world. It has been very exciting.
This wonderland of the modern age has become inevitably threatened by big business and big governments. Those in power hate when us peasants gain any kind of independence. China and other fascist governmental establishments are continuously seeking ways to control and censor the Internet. Big businesses are, likewise, seeking ways to corner off parts of the Internet as "their property" so they can profit by making us pay more to access "their" Internet.
Net Neutrality is a movement against all forms of Internet possession. Simply put, KEEP YOUR DIRTY HAND OFF OUR INTERNET. Geeks, like me, who are passionate about Net Neutrality simply want to insure that the Internet remains the open-to-everyone public resource for information, commerce, and communication. We don't want anyone to turn the Internet into property or some kind of rationed commodity. Currently, Net Neutrality is under attack from all sides, so I want to set the record straight here.
Again, stating I am a BIG supporter of Net Neutrality, let's talk about about justifying the ideal of Net Neutrality with the reality that the Internet costs money, time, and resources to keep going. Businesses, like Comcast, who provide Internet to millions of people want to, and should, be able to make a profit by doing so. There have been two contentious methods of making profit with the Internet that has caught the attention of us Net Neutrality activists:
1) Internet providers want to be able to show favoritism toward webpages that pay them fees. In other words, they would lower the bandwidth available for the web and offer higher "premium" bandwidth for sites paying a fee. It is a ways of double-dipping the Internet; consumers pay for Internet on one end and business pay to show up on the other.
2) Internet providers have discovered that a large percentage of bandwidth is used by illegal (or at least questionable) file sharing services such as BitTorrent. In order to lower costs, Internet providers wish to be able to limit bandwidth, or charge more, for Internet services that consume a disproportionate amount of resources. See Comcast vs. FCC here -> http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/06/AR2010040600742.html
Item #1 is horrible, but #2 is understandable. However, the recent fight between the FCC and Comcast over item #2 has given big-business-friendly politicians an emotional cause to support item #1. Now many Republicans in congress are fighting to end Net Neutrality based on the valid problem #2 presents, but also allows for #1. The Republican bill allowing scenarios #1 and #2 is ironically called the “Internet Freedom Act” (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUS348124681720091022). I believe, most of these Republicans don't even understand what they are really asking for, they just know their contributors are whining.
The political-right in this country isn't the only threat to Net Neutrality either. While Conservatives are starting war to end one kind of Net Neutrality, Liberals are pushing back with a weird anti-Net Neutrality bill of their own.... which they still call “Net Neutrality”. Take a look at what Cass Sunstein the new head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) thinks about the Internet in his book Republic.com:
“A system of limitless individual choices, with respect to communications, is not necessarily in the interest of citizenship and self-government. Democratic efforts to reduce the resulting problems ought not be rejected in freedom’s name.”
Pretty scary, huh? In other words, he doesn’t like the fact that the Internet gives us so many different options and opinions. At one point he believed that:
“...that government should consider fairness-doctrine-type mandates on Web sites. It suggested that it’s reasonable for government to think about creating the equivalent of linking obligations and pop-ups, so that you’d be on one site — say, a conservative site — and there’d be a pop-up from a liberal site.”
While he later states, “I now the believe that the government should not consider that...”, it shows where he is coming from. I never understand people who claim that websites should be "fair". No one makes you go to the sites, no one makes you stay, and since search engines are still neutral, everyone can find all sorts of opposing views on any topic. Besides, "fair" is such an ambiguous term, it is impossible enforce.
You can't claim "fairness" just by posting a view that opposed yours on a website. What if the view you posted was chosen because it was so poorly supported? What if there are many opposing views? What if the opposing view is from a bogus or proxy source? Such claims of "fairness" can only possibly do more to limited freedom of speech on the web.
Will the Real "Net Neutrality" Please Stand Up?
When we talk about Net Neutrality, we need to clear that it is an objective, enforceable, and unbiased ideal. Keeping the Internet open, free, and neutral just means that no Internet provider can limit or withhold bandwidth for any website, and no one can tell what to do with your website. Businesses can't own or section off part of the Internet as "premium" and governments can't tell people what to put on their sites when they are not performing illegal activities.
Keep it simple, and keep up the fight. Don't let the Internet become property.
Tags: net neutrality