Monday, September 09, 2013

Net Neutrality On Trial!

This is pretty important.  Net Neutrality goes on trial this week. Net neutrality is an idea, and a good idea that we've all come to rely upon for our access to data be it medical information, news, entertainment, music, history, or deluded blog posts about the dangers of fluoride. now that so much of our news content comes via the Internet this poses an especially great hazard. But in many parts of the world... things have begun to look grim. More here.

From the beginning of the Internet we have operated with the assumption that all content providers would be treated equally.  This blog and Google News are delivered to your networked device of choice with more or less the same expedience. Verizon would like to change that. They would like to decide for you which content providers should be delivered quickly, and which should get the slow walk. It's also worth saying that they aim to get paid to prioritize, which tells us everything we need to know about who will be the first in line.

they make a number of arguments, including an absurd one that the FCC has no right to regulate them.But at the heart of their argument is not capitalist fervor. Instead they make the most ironic yet dystopian argument I have ever heard. They are arguing against the free speech implicit in net neutrality in favor of their own "speech" expressed as censorship.  Bloomberg Business Week summed it up nicely:
"Among Verizon’s arguments against the Open Internet Order is the contention that it violates the company’s rights under the First Amendment and Fifth Amendment. Appealing to the First Amendment is particularly novel. Verizon is arguing, in a nutshell, that part of its role as an Internet provider is to pick and choose the services it wants to provide. These are editorial decisions, the company says, and should be protected as free speech"
The argument is cynical, and dubious at best. Arguing that their decision to control the content they convey could be made with the same rigor to control the content of your phone calls. It sounds like an absurd extension of the argument, but the phone lines are just another network of wires, and routers and connections. Be the content be delivered at 128k, a T1, DSL, or wirelessly at 4G it's just a connection. They provide nothing but the bandwidth. The Internet is not a single media, but an enormous world-wide content producing machine community. It is not a Verizon inter-office newsletter.

 If they are permitted to limit access, they are not editors, they are censors.

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