Sunday, August 8, 2010

Net Neutrality Fear-Mongering

So Google and Verizon are on the cusp of announcing the end to Net Neutrality. They're quickly climbing up the ladder to the top prize of epitomizing evil – a spot currently held by AT&T, Apple, and British Petroleum.

Why, I have to ask.

There's this, as explained by the New York Times:
Google and Verizon, two leading players in Internet service and content, are nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege.

The charges could be paid by companies, like YouTube, owned by Google, for example, to Verizon, one of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, to ensure that its content received priority as it made its way to consumers. The agreement could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users.
So the new Devilish Duo wants to make content providers pay for the privilege of getting their stuff to users faster. How dastardly. How insiduous. How like radio, television, and print media.

How old school.

And – to make this a scary bugaboo to the masses – the threat is that if net neutrality goes down, our ISP charges will go up, up, up.

Like they don't already? Like they're going to go down, or remain in stasis, even with net neutrality ensured?

I guess I need some new media or technology wonk to explain the scary implications of all of this to me, rather than relying on the pseudo-scare managed by the New York Times.

So off to the Internets, Robin!

Josh Silver, over at the Huffington Post, has this to say about the impending doom of net neutrality, after – of course – making a jab the Bush Administration, which would SO be on the top of the Evil List if he were still in office, damn democracy anyway:
A non-neutral Internet means that companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Google can turn the Net into cable TV and pick winners and losers online. A problem just for Internet geeks? You wish. All video, radio, phone and other services will soon be delivered through an Internet connection. Ending Net Neutrality would end the revolutionary potential that any website can act as a television or radio network. It would spell the end of our opportunity to wrest access and distribution of media content away from the handful of massive media corporations that currently control the television and radio dial.
All? Really? All. I never trust that word. Never. And it's ironical that a writer at the Huffington Post is expressing umbrage at an attempt to thwart “our opportunity to wrest access and distribution of media content away from the handful of massive media corporations that currently control the television and radio dial” seeing as just about what the Huffington Post can manage to do is what most bloggers do: Riff off the work of those self-same media corporations.

Let's face reality, folks. Even with net neutrality, the chance that, say, something at Mister Fweem's Blog is going to be as significant, as thoroughly researched, as entertaining, as valueable to mass audiences, as stuff prodiced by those mass media outlets is pretty slim. Yeah, I've preached the value of Clay Shirky's Psycho Milt here, but let's get real. The arguments for net neutrality are so dependent on a plethora of “what if” statements – But what if Psycho Milt has just the photo you want? But what if Uncle Bob's Blog is the best source on the Internet for stale jokes? But what if Bumhole Radio broadcasting out of a closet in Sugar City, Idaho, has the best mix of punk-ska music you've ever heard of – that they seem farcical.

The idea that one idea, one source of information, one person, one whatever, is as equal to the ideas, information, people and dedicated resources of media companies, whether old or new, is ludicrous. It's the idea that the traditional American fifteen minutes of fame has been expanded to fifteen millennia by the advent of the Internet. It's a stupid, wrong-headed suggestion. And scaring people into thinking it's bad simply because they might be charged more for Internet access is downright embarrassing.

We have on one hand the free-for-all that is the Internet, up against on the other hand the more – and here's a word most everybody on the Internet hates – traditional distributors in (gasp!) old media, or, at best, new media (Google and Verizon) behaving in an old media way (Why do you want to controllll ussssss?).

Pardon me if I'm not scared at all.

I don't see ISPs offering me any price love right now. They pretend to offer spectacular deals – our local Baby Bell is the worst at that; offering the same “special” deals they offered when I worked for them in 2006 – while, when you get down to the basics of it all, offer the same service, same speed, at the same price. Prove to me that the end of net neutrailty will mean annual increases in my ISP bill and you'll have to prove to me as well that content providers, under a tiered system, won't write of the tier charges as advertising and slash their advertising budgets in kind, while ISPs shake in their boots at the thought of increasing dramatically the price of the service they offer to consumers, already in rebellion against stupid pricing, lousy service, and bureaucratic hell if, heaven forbid, something goes wrong and they can't access the Internet any longer.

And you know what? I'm already forced to swim through sponsored links, not only in Google searches but in places like and any other number of places where net neutrality is championed. Tiered content offerings are already here, folks, and the price I pay for Internet access hasn't budged.

It all may be moot since at this point Engadget tells us that both Google and Verizon are saying the NYT's story is full of hogwash. That's good news for folks like me who don't see the scare-mongering doing any good anyway. It all sounds like the Wacky Races to me.

The only question is, who is Dick Dastardly in this question, and who is Muttley?

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