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Friday, June 09, 2006

The Devil Speaks: Congress shall make no law...

Yes, we know this is the third post in three days on the subject of net neutrality, but it's that important - especially for independent bloggers such as us here at the MZone. Furthermore, the bill was set to go to the Congress for a vote last night (check here, Bruins Nation or SaveTheInternet.com for updates). It's down to the wire. Thus, we're going to keep bringing it up in hopes of doing our small part. So that someday in the future my kids don't ask, "Dad, is it true that anybody used to be able to put up a blog or videos or pictures on the Internet?"

Today, frequent MZone contributor BaggyPantsDevil weighs in. Below was a comment he left on one of the earlier pieces about net neutrality. We thought it was good enough that it deserved its own post.

I just visited Alaska — which I highly recommend to everyone, don’t die before seeing that place — hence the Bald Eagle picture. For the record, there is not a photograph or video clip of this bird in existence that comes remotely close to capturing its intensity and beauty.

Apparently, seeing the National Bird of the United States up close has inspired me to express myself on an issue concerning the free speech of all Americans, “net neutrality” or the ability of packets of data to travel through the internet without preferential treatment or discrimination regardless of who is sending the data or who is receiving it.

If the internet was merely about commerce, it might not be such a big deal. Brick and mortar businesses pay more money for better locations so they can sell more goods, so it might be considered reasonable to expect online businesses to do the same.

However, the internet is more than just another place to sell stuff. The internet is also about the exchange of information and ideas. If the telecos are able to charge fees for preferential access to the internet, large corporations—who have the money to pay those fees—will most likely take up all that fast access trying to sell you something. Bloggers and individuals wishing to discuss political, economic, environmental, or religious issues will face the dilemma of paying the extra money to reach a wider audience or face being relegated to some sort of internet ghetto.

It’s at that point that the internet ceases to be the beautiful thing it is now—where EDSBS has as much access to an audience as ESPN does—and turns into just another media outlet that spoonfeeds its brain dead audience and rams heavily promoted, prepackaged, and sponsored content down everyone’s throats.

Want to read about what’s going on in Iraq from someone who’s actually there? Too bad, the bandwidth is being used up by the latest streaming add for Coca-Cola. Want to read the latest “Upon Further Review” over at MGoBlog? Sorry, you’ll have to settle for the rather generic write up provided by ESPN since they paid for the preferential treatment.

Back when this country was created, politics were frequently discussed in taverns or the town square. These options aren’t really feasible for Americans today. The town square is now a Super Wal-Mart and drinking and discussing politics can lead to duels and duels are bad. Plus, we have to drive home from the tavern now and that’s definitely bad.

So, for Americans to remain a well informed electorate (or do I mean become a well informed electorate?)—which is necessary for any democracy to succeed—access to information, ideas, and having a place to discuss that information and those ideas actually is kind of important. As far as I can tell, the internet is the best—if not only—place for that.

Sure, a slowly loading page of a college football blog isn’t going to be the end of freedom as we know it, but I don’t want to go back to the days when I had no one to share the ups and downs of Michigan football with because I’m either living in the middle of nowhere or overseas. This internet thing brings people together—people who would never have known each other even existed—and that’s a good thing (the occasional anonymous commenter notwithstanding). For it to end because someone had a bright idea on how to make even more money for an already profitable industry would be a crime.

As for Ed Whitacre, the last time I checked my fucking cable bill the internet wasn’t free. And, considering you—Ed—pull in more than $19 million a year, I don’t think AT&T is giving much complimentary bandwidth away. Bitch.

Now, if Ed ever Googles his name, he might actually read that. Behold the beauty of the internet.

UPDATE 6/9: Here's the latest on the House vote last night. It's not too good. But it now goes to Senate where there is much stronger support. Folks, this isn't a partisan issue. We're talking about something that has the ACLU and the Christian Coalition on the same side as well as every major consumer group in the entire nation. Again, I urge you to take 5 minutes out of your day, go to SaveTheInternet.com and email your representatives.

12 comments:

jeff said...

Good write up. The last comments left me with a question:
if this junk actually passes - it doesn't make sense for me to pay $50/mo for cable internet. I shouldn't have to pay anything at all! Let Google, MSN and Time Warner foot my freakin' bill.
But you could sell me a $50/mo package where I won't have to succomb to this "preferential treatment" BS.
The only detail left is whether current technology can accomodate that.

I don't think the above is a solution; the ONLY solution right now is to kill this thing before it gets too far. I heard there was a lady politician in another country last week, who was so opposed to a bill that she ran up to the front and ATE IT!

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Jeff,

That is one of the supposed "benefits" of the telecos charging extra fees for the faster more reliable internet access, the companies paying the extra money help defray the costs of upgrading the infrastructure so individual internet subscribers won't have to.

Call me a cynic, but I doubt that any actual savings would ever be passed on to consumers. Plus, I think there's a larger issue involved with this.

Anonymous said...

The technology already exists and is already used quite a bit.

You're probably familiar with VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). It's being used all over, and this very technology is already being used extensively to make it work. Where it's being used, the data that contains the voice is given priority over everything else. I work with this a lot, and for one it's rare for anyone to ever notice any difference at all, at the most a website loads on a page a quarter second slower, if that.

There's already a preferential treatment system in place. Why do you suppose some people pay hundreds of dollars for a T1 when their DSL or cable modem might cost them $30 and they supposedly can get teh same speeds or even higher? With DSL and Cable modems, you are sharing that bandwidth with everyone else in your neighborhood. Sure, you might be able to get 3 meg, but have you ever noticed that it gets slower at certain times? But the guy next door doesn't have those slowdowns because he's paying big bucks for a T1 that doesn't have to share bandwidth with anyone.

Should we ban people from getting T1's in their home because they're paying for another form of preferential treatment?




Because the T1 is a direct connection to the internet as opposed to shared bandwidth and you get essentially a better connection. Are we going to ban T1's because of this?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - With all due respect, I think that's a different issue. Offering consumers different connection speeds (e.g., T1 vs. dial-up) is market segmentation, not preferential treatment.

The problem with what's being proposed is that regardless of the connection speed a consumer might choose, s/he woul receive certain content faster.

Anonymous said...

and how would you feel, anonymous, if you spent the big bucks on a T1, but the only sites that actually loaded quickly were the businesses that could afford the ridiculous fees?

oops, not so cool anymore, is it?

The only people who oppose this law are A) people who work for telecos (and happen to be greedy), B) people who have been paid off by the telecos (ie. all republican congressmen), or C) people who don't understand the issue.

This is not an issue of capitalism, it's an issue of freedom of speech.

Yost said...

Also, we're talking about "double dipping" here. AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, etc. already get paid X dollars a month by consumers for their high-speed service. Now they want to also charge Google, YouTube, etc. another fee so, by that fee, they control what I get to see (ie who pays up) for my $50/month broadband service.

Total bullshit.

t-towngradstudent said...

Quoting Anon:
"The only people who oppose this law are A) people who work for telecos (and happen to be greedy), B) people who have been paid off by the telecos (ie. all republican congressmen), or C) people who don't understand the issue."

I am none of these and I am against NN. So are you saying I am too stupid to understand the issue? A weak argument indeed.

Also your statement that "this is not an issue of Capitalism" is incorrect. Capitalism is an economic structure characterized by strong individual property rights and rights to the fruits of the property. NN is by definition a taking of property rights from ISPs. If NN were enacted the ISPs would lose the right to use thier infrastructure as they see fit. This is an incremental step away from Capitalism.

Market forces are the most efficient and effective means to provide goods and services to the population. Government fiat will circumvent this process and have negative consequences. A loss of consumer surplus or deadweight loss is inevitable.

I can't wait for the football season so I can stop thinking about this stuff and get back to the meaningful stuff in life like the BCS formula!

Yost said...

T-Town,

Unfortunately, if net neutrality is defeated, while you "can't wait for the football season," many of the blogs such as this one that you seem to enjoy - at some point - might not be around.

t-towngradstudent said...

I fail to understand the connection between NN and blogs disappearing? What is going to eliminate blogs that NN can stop?

BaggyPantsDevil said...

t-town,

There's a couple of problems with what the ISP's want.

First, from a strictly economic standpoint, many have a monopoly on broadband internet service in their areas. I have one company to choose from to get cable modem service, so there's not a lot of market forces driving that company to provide me with what I want or competition to control the price. I have to take what they offer or settle for slower access.

I don't know what graduate school says about government regulation of monopolies, but I would think it's a necessary evil to ensure consumers are protected since the true competition isn't in place to ensure their desires are met.

Second, there's a larger issue at stake here, namely access to the forum that has is becoming the way Americans learn about the world and exchange ideas.

I admit that it's a bit of a stretch--largely because the technology and its potential was unknown when the Constitution was written--but a law that allows an ISP to gives an advantage to certain customers who pay additional fees is inherently giving a disadvantage to those who do not which is pretty much “abridging” someone’s speech which means this law is unconstitutional.

Nobody put a gun to Ed Whitacre's head and said he had to go into a business where he becomes the avenue for the expression of some of the fundamental rights of Americans. Sure, it's a highly lucrative business, but since we're talking about the rights of American's he's got to just deal with the fact that it's not going to be all about his company’s profits and he’s not going to get his way on everything.

Rather than whining about how he won't be making as much money as he could be, he should feel honored and proud to be a part of something that will fundamentally change the way humanity interacts and exchanges ideas and knowledge.

t-towngradstudent said...

Baggypantsdevil,

I respectfully disagree with you. I don't see myself chaning my view on this but I appreciate you sharing your views with me. I enjoy topics like this as I have just completed my Master's degree in Economics (and you know how crazy we economists are!).

Jeremie said...

Lol, BPD, so you know that speakin out politically is a good way to get a wake up call from CID, right?:) Trust me, I know from experience (so LT I just want to know, for the record, what it was you said about the president's foreign policy on....)