The juxtaposition of two polls on Net Neutrality caught my eye and I was sure you were awaiting insights with bated breath, so here it cometh.
- The first poll indicated that 83% of people were in favor of Net Neutrality.
- The second indicated that 72% of respondents had no clue what Net Neutrality meant.
I didn’t vet these polls but based on my research both seem within the realm of reasonability. My guess is that the latter figure is understated because the vast majority claiming to understand, misunderstand.
Let’s start with the generally accepted definition from Merriam-Webster:
“the idea, principle, or requirement that Internet service providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination”
Hey. Who can’t get on board with that, especially when they use the word “neutrality” right in the title? A few short bytes later, the subplot begins to unfold with this addendum:
… a philosophical contest that’s being fought under the banner of “net neutrality,” a slogan that inspires rhetorical devotion but eludes precise definition. …
That is so profound that it should be a required disclosure for every media story and political speech whether it is about Net Neutrality or not. It bears repeating:
A slogan that inspires rhetorical devotion but eludes precise definition.
I have to admit that my initial prejudice was in favor. This sounds like the Switzerland of concepts, right? My particular rhetorical devotion was immediately tempered by my innate skepticism related to new and “improved” government regulations. I mean, I was still heavily leaning in favor of “neutral” even though past experience has shown that government has spoiled more wet dreams than Amy Schumer. So I set out on a quest for the simple truth.
The first thing I discovered is that much like the “simple truth” and the Loch Ness Monster, net neutrality has never really existed.
And yet the way the entire debate is framed is based on this false assumption that network neutrality is something we have—and are about to lose!—when the Internet already isn’t really neutral at all.
The second thing is that Net Neutrality isn’t about neutrality at all. Neutral means to not choose sides. Net Neutrality is nothing but choosing sides…getting the government to regulate one competitor to the advantage of other competitors.
One of the ways to start tracking down what is really going on is to “follow the money.” In this case, who is for and who is against. Those opposing NN include Comcast, Verizon, AT&T who would be prohibited from prioritizing and offering their own web products and services at lower prices, charging other companies extra for prioritized access to users, charging consumers extra for exclusive access to additional and better web services, and slowing delivery unless you pay more.
Sounds pretty bad, huh? I don’t like those companies to start with. So far, NN seems like the big winner.
Now for the proponents of NN. These include Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I like all of those companies and use their products daily! What is going on here? This seems like no contest.
No contest until you look behind the curtain. Poop.
Amazon prioritizes its own products and sells them at a lower price than competitors. Amazon has an entire line of AmazonBasics products which are often much cheaper generics listed and highlighted in product search results before name-brand products.
Of course, the most flagrantly nonneutral aspect of Amazon is Amazon Prime. Net Neutrality advocates shudder at the thought of their internet service provider charging them an additional fee to access additional content or websites or have their data delivered faster than others.
Yet, Amazon Prime features all of the above. Amazon Prime membership, an additional $12.99 a month, grants free express shipping, lower prices, and prioritized access to certain items and services among countless other benefits. It is a great service, but it’s the antithesis of neutral.
Google and all of the social media leaders violate the principles of neutrality as part of their core operating values. Advertisers who pay, pop up first in searches. Facebook reroutes your feed to their interpretation of “Top Stories” which usually have nothing to do with you. YouTube and Twitter censor content based on political positions.
It seems to me that political censorship is a greater sin than creating different delivery channels for different customers but I am not suggesting Net Neutrality laws for these companies. On the other hand, their NN advocacy is a hybrid of chutzpah and hypocrisy.
By now, you probably don’t need a “number three” but alas, there is more. It is almost impossible to pick on government regulation of private enterprise enough so here is another poke. The U.S. Net Neutrality regulations were hastily slapped into place political payola that had no basis in the law.
The FCC attempted to classify Internet Service Providers as “common carriers.” Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point of view), the FCC screwed up the Open Internet Order by imposing common carriage rules on ISPs without first declaring them to be common carriers!
Based on the definitions in the 1996 Telecom Act, the FCC classified cable broadband as an “information service” and as a result it is not treated as a common carrier service and is largely exempt from regulation. This was to encourage innovation and investment in private infrastructure and preclude unnecessary government intervention. (Emphasis mine.)
It is more than ironic that those misusing the word “neutrality” to trick people into rhetorical devotion in the absence of a precise definition, got pantsed for misusing words with precise definition to implement their plan.
Explain it to me one more time how having the government controlling every aspect of the internet is going to speed up my Netflix movie.
UPDATE September 13, 2018. Verizon started letting people sign up for its new wireless 5G Home high-speed internet service this week. It doesn’t just mark the start of the next internet revolution. It obliterates the case for net-neutrality regulations.
The major pro-NN argument was that Comcast and other ISPs that paid for the cable infrastructure had monopolistic power to compete unfairly. In the absence of NN bureaucracy, free market innovation appears to have made cable infrastructure obsolete. Anybody can offer high speed internet anywhere.
Prediction: Tomorrow’s headline — BREAK UP THE VERIZON MONOPOLY!
Words that inspire devotion but elude precise definition.