Not Neutrality

1/16/2014 Stephen Colbert 0 Comments

I'm all for free and unrestricted internet.  I don't want any entity monitoring, tampering with, or prioritizing my traffic or the traffic of anyone else.  In a perfect world, the internet would be completely open and unrestricted to everyone and we wouldn't have to have arguments over what net neutrality means, or if it is good or bad.

The main fear of those wanting net neutrality legislation is that the companies that control everyone's access to the internet will begin to tamper with traffic prioritization to favor some packets over others depending on the the entity found at the source or destination of said packet.  The proposed legislation would essentially turn the FCC into the gatekeeper of the internet and would place regulations on these companies preventing them from making their own decisions on how traffic should be regulated.

The problem is, the FCC isn't exactly some immaculate source of impartial judgment.  The Federal Communications Commission is, in fact, a historic source of cronyism and corruption.

Seriously, who watches the Watchmen?

One of the most recent examples of cronyism in the FCC is with the case of LightSquared.  LightSquared was going to launch a 4G LTE network covering most of the country and bring more choice and competition to the market mostly dominated by AT&T and Verizon at the time.  The FCC had authorized LightSquared to build their network using their owned wireless spectrum, so the company began to move forward with production, investing billions into spectrum and technology and establishing partnerships with secondary providers and shareholders interested in investing millions more.

This move was nearly immediately protested by the Coalition to Save Our GPS and their millions of dollars in lobbyists due to the fact that the FCC approved use of spectrum purchased by LightSquared would conflict with GPS signals used by many corporations and the US Military.  This had been known for over a decade.

After a long drawn out fight, the FCC reversed on the LightSquared approval, practically erasing the value in billions of dollars of research, technology, and spectrum.  Forcing LightSquared to file for bankruptcy.  Sad story, but that's not the bogus part.  LightSquared probably shouldn't have even been approved in the first place, but political connections in the company basically turned the FCC into the biggest tease, wasting billions of dollars in investor money in the process.

The FCC is also in bed with the established telecom companies anyway, garnering all sorts of special favors from those that desire special treatment by the regulatory agency.  Former FCC commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker left the FCC to accept a position with Comcast (after approving their NBC deal) and the current FCC chairman is a former lobbyist for the industry.


That doesn't sounds very neutral for the net to me.  A regulated internet will never be neutral.  There are more ways for the government to regulate the internet than just net neutrality.  SOPA and PIPA are actually surprisingly similar to net neutrality laws in practice.  You can't claim you support one and not the other, because they give basically identical authority over the internet to the same corrupt hypocrites.

This is also the brothers and sisters of the people over at the NSA that are reading your phone records and spying on American citizens.  I believe Edward Snowden referred to tools not all that different from SOPA, PIPA, and net neutrality laws as "Turnkey Tyranny."  I don't care what the "intent" of these laws are, they don't belong in a free country.
It's ok if you confuse the term "monitor" with "regulate"

Oh, but the ISPs are also corrupt and need to be regulated?  This is true.  Unfortunately, the cronyism of the FCC has created a market that partially insulates the big vendors from any blow-back due to anti-consumer actions.  Fortunately, although your options are limited, you can still vote with your wallet.  You have the ability to get out from under a service provider you dislike, but not from under the unelected officials that run the FCC.

Also, it's important to examine what happens when we start sacrificing packet equality.  When we talk about providers regulating traffic, it's not on some evil whim (they are still subject t anti-trust and collusion laws).  The results of traffic regulation by providers isn't all bad.  There are actually some very pro consumer benefits to that can be gleaned.  As Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said "It's like telling the airlines you can't sell first class seats." 

We saw something very interesting happen with Google over the past couple of years.  Consumers have begun volunteering to trade their privacy for productivity.  Google benefits from our data and provides us with beneficial tools in return.  If you don't want Google to have your data, you can choose to opt out of using their services.  It's a great relationship.  It is our job to hold the industry accountable.  And we generally do a pretty good job.

We see this all the time.  A few years ago, it came out that many Sprint phones had a diagnostic program running called "Carrier IQ" that monitored user activity.  There was immediate outrage and many people threatened to cancel (and some did).  Sprint immediately responded and ordered OEMs to disable Carrier IQ.

Or there's the Netflix mass exodus over their price hikes in 2011.  Netflix won back the hearts and screens of many customers with a (seemingly) sincere apology, and justified the increase with the first ever Emmy for online only content.

Did anything about this show make you trust the government?

You should have the freedom to have options with your providers.  Some providers might have exclusive content, some might guarantee quality of service, or speed.  These things are all benefits available from providers that are allowed to regulate your access.  Don't like the access they provide? Tell them, and pay for service you find more agreeable elsewhere.

There are so many unintended consequences to net neutrality laws, besides the fact that it serves as a back door for privacy invasion, and content control the likes of which SOPA and PIPA supporters would love.  Keep the internet truly free and keep the reigns instead of resigning control to governing bodies with proven anti-consumer track records.

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