Network Neutrality

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I’d been reading bits and pieces about Network Neutrality for a while now, but for whatever reason I was never struck with how it’s A Really Big Deal. It took a post on Wil Wheaton’s blog to clue me in. Thanks, Wesley! This is a pretty messed-up situation.

This post on the Huffington Post by Adam Green explains the situation. In particular, his link to this editorial in The New Yorker which gives it some context and talks about the potential ramifications if the telco companies get their way.

I guess I assumed that the telecommunications companies’ position was such a transparently blatant case of corporate greed that it would never get as far as it has. But then, I have been living in the United States for the past six years, so I really don’t have any excuse to still be so naive.

The situation as they spin it is one of fair play, de-regulation — the capitalism that I’ve gone on record as being in favor of. The networks are outdated and broken, they claim, and it’s going to cost billions and billions of dollars to fix them. Big corporations like Google and Amazon (and now, YouTube, apparently) are using up an disproportionate amount of bandwidth on these networks, but not paying for them. They’re using more of the internets; isn’t it only fair that they should foot the bill? If the telco companies are allowed to institute tiered pricing, then they can charge big greedy Amazon more, while leaving the common internet user (you and me) alone.

Which is, of course, bullshit.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m already paying over fifty bucks a month to AT&T (or is it SBC, or Yahoo!, or some other ConHugeCo conglomerate/cabal I’m not even aware of?) to get internet access. I’m assuming that Amazon and Google aren’t running their services through the same type of single DSL line I use. They’re already paying more.

And when the rates go up, are they just going to quietly eat the overhead themselves? Of course not. They’re going to increase the charges to me. (Or in the case of Google, however they make money, they’re going to do more of it. I’m sure I’ll end up paying one way or another.) So I, and every other one of the “common men” of the internet that the lobbyists are playing to, is going to have to pay AT&T or Comcast or Verizon or whatever service provider twice for the same service.

And that’s the best-case scenario. Far more likely is that the companies will have an unprecedented level of control over what gets seen on the internet at all. Somebody at AT&T doesn’t like what you post on your blog? They can just restrict bandwidth to it so that nobody ever sees it. Barnes& outbids for tiered access? Suddenly, their site runs like a dream and Amazon acts like you’re seeing it over a Vicmodem.

And that’s not even to mention local bookstores who want to set up a web presence. Or just somebody like myself, who doesn’t have a whole lot to say but by damn is going to go online and say it.

Mike McCurry, the former Clinton press secretary who’s now shilling for AT&T and the like as a lobbyist, has already been caught lying twice in his defense of his claims, by other writers on the very same blog. What offends me the most about his nonsense is that it’s just a blatant copy of the same tired old shit that we’ve getting around just about every political issue for years, and has even been leaking into entertainment. Let’s break it down:

  • Stupid polarizing terminology. Just like the attempts to turn “liberal” into a dirty word, and coin “neocon” as another compartmentalization. This dumb-ass keeps calling everyone “net neuts.” It’s idiotic juvenile name-calling, pure and simple.
  • Faux populism. They’re doing it for your benefit, you see! Why are you defending these Big Corporations like Google and Amazon? They don’t care about you! They’re getting a free ride off of you! And really, I mean, AT&T and Verizon and Comcast — they’re not all that big, right? They’re just regular joes like you and me. I bet the head of AT&T would be great to have a beer with, not like that elitist snob Jeff Bezos!
  • Followed by insulting elitism. At the same time they try to make themselves like the common man, they always throw in the tone of “you wouldn’t understand, so don’t worry your pretty little head about it.” There are so many complicated issues with global network infrastructure that are way way too technical to go into. All you need to know is that the damn liberals have made it sound like a case of the little guy vs. Big Corporations. Which it’s not. Even if it is AT&T and Verizon trying to institute a system that would let them charge you $500 a month to have a personal website.
  • Lying. Okay, this one isn’t unique to the last decade, but it’s still pretty damn insulting. Seriously, read this moron’s blathering again and tell me he’s not evil. It’s so obvious even before you read the cheat sheet.

So there’s an Internet petition, for whatever that’s worth. If you don’t like (I don’t particularly, but signed the petition anyway), you can go directly to and participate in their campaign, with links to your representatives and such. You can also check out their blog, which collects the most relevant info about the issue and exposes what a bunch of greedy liars the telco company lobbyists are.

Hopefully this will get enough attention that we can put the smack down on any such blatant free-speech assaults as this one. And then once we’ve got the basics down, we can go back to bugging our representatives about stuff like not dropping nuclear bombs on Iran.