Saturday, April 22, 2006

Blogs for Network Neutrality

by Tom Bozzo

Telcos operate under common carrier obligations which, in the flyover version, prevent them from discriminating among content providers in their roles as internet service providers. This system is also known as "network neutrality." Some of them think that they could be more profitable were they freed to levy additional charges against what they like to call "bandwidth hogs," and so they have been hard at work trying to kill efforts to write network neutrality provisions into telecom law.

With considerable justification, Atrios calls this "another attempt to kill the internets" and points to MyDD's Matt Stoller, who has lots more information including a link to an ideologically diverse group forming to work the other side. Since the telcos spend lots of money advancing their issues, the network neutrality side faces what looks like an uphill battle.

Longtime readers may remember the issue from earlier in the year, when Frank Paynter had been promoting the issue at his old site.

Stoller points to an astroturf group, Hands Off the Internet, which is sponsored by the new AT&T, a few other telecom firms, and a strange collection of conservative groups. The essence of the Hands Off pitch is a no doubt expensively calculated corporate pseudo-libertarian pitch: stop Uncle Sam from regulating the free and open internet and messing up what we have. Needless to say, left unmentioned is that Edward Whitacre very much wants his hands on the internet.

More serious versions of the argument, appealing to "freedom of association" and "freedom of contract" are specious because they deprecate the freedoms of individual users in favor of the corporations' exercise of them. Of course, it's a normative matter as to which freedoms matter more. Where the pseudo-libertarian argument really falls apart is that internet users' freedoms amount to implicit contractual terms with the service providers, and the service providers want to abrogate them without compensation. Or, more specifically, without compensation to users as opposed to users' so-called representatives in Congress.

The basic problem is this, from the earlier post:
The danger, given the current political climate, is that "network neutrality" has a constituency that's virtually every end user of the internet, but that doesn't matter because the key moneyed interests are on the other side (another h/t to Frank):
There were strong Network Neutrality words in draft telecom legislation before the U.S. House Commerce Committee, but these were removed in a second draft, because, according to Chairman [Joe] Barton [R-TX], “Nobody I talked to liked the first draft.”
You can just imagine to whom Rep. Barton talked.
Expect to be hearing more.
This post is an excellent example of why I love your blog.

This is an important issue. Thanks for pointing us to it (again).
Thanks, JR, that's very nice of you to say. Thanks, too, for spreading the word at your place.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?