Apropos Adam’s post about network neutrality and the first amendment, one of the cleverest things about the pro-network-neutrality campaign is the way they’ve been able to subtly portray themselves as defending the status quo against greedy telecom companies. We’re told that network neutrality is “the First Amendment of the Internet,” but “Internet provides like AT&T and Verizon are spending millions of dollars lobbying Congress to gut net neutrality.”
The fundamental problem that net neutrality advocates have is that theirs is a solution in search of a problem. Check out their list of “numerous examples” of net neutrality abuse:
In 2004, North Carolina ISP Madison River blocked their DSL customers from using any rival Web-based phone service. In 2005, Canada’s telephone giant Telus blocked customers from visiting a Web site sympathetic to the Telecommunications Workers Union during a labor dispute. Shaw, a big Canadian cable TV company, is charging an extra $10 a month to subscribers who want to use a competing Internet telephone service. In April, Time Warner’s AOL blocked all emails that mentioned www.dearaol.com–an advocacy campaign opposing the company’s pay-to-send e-mail scheme.
For those keeping score at home, that’s two incidents in Canada (which, last I checked, is not within Congress’s jurisdiction) and a third that was most likely an honest mistake. So their “numerous examples” of net neutrality abuse in the US amount to one alleged incident by an ISP in North Carolina that no one has ever heard of. That hardly sounds like a looming crisis.
Which creates a problem, because they know that without a sense of urgency, Congress will (justifiably) take a wait-and-see attitude. So to generate that sense of urgency, they’ve taken a page out of Mr. Orwell’s book: those of us who think Congress should leave well enough alone are trying to “get rid of net neutrality.” Telecom companies who don’t want the FCC telling them how to run their networks are trying to get “special rules written in their favor.” On the other hand, those who advocate intrusive new govenment regulations are just trying to “preserve the freedoms we currently enjoy on the Internet.”
But war is not peace and freedom is not slavery. It’s the “save the Internet” coalition, not its opponents, who are seeking to fundamentally change the Internet by giving new powers to government regulators. The looming threat here isn’t from corporate control (which Congress can step in at any time to curtail) but from government control (which, once established, is unlikely to ever be repealed). Maybe it’s a good idea to expand governmental regulation of the Internet, but if so, the supporters of doing so should call a spade a spade.