A fairly nuanced article from Cory Doctorow in support of "net neutrality" is here. He makes hash of the phone companies' beef that internet companies are getting to "use their pipes for free," but at the same time lists the difficulties in crafting neutrality legislation that doesn't stifle future innovation. Here's a good way of understanding what's at stake in the argument, and why you the consumer should care about the issue:
Why does network neutrality need protecting? Craigslist co-founder Craig Newmark addressed this point in an editorial he wrote for CNN.com: "Let's say you call Joe's Pizza, and the first thing you hear is a message saying you'll be connected in a minute or two, but if you want, you can be connected to Pizza Hut right away. That's not fair, right? You called Joe's and want some Joe's pizza."
Make no mistake, our phone and cable companies are spending millions and working Capitol Hill to take away some of the freedom you currently enjoy with the Internet. They hate it and want you to subscribe to their shitty programming the way you do with cable TV. On the other hand:
The most prominent voices for net neutrality have been calling for a regulatory solution. Regulation created this mess, so maybe regulation can solve it. Congress can pass a law directing the FCC to adopt rules to ensure neutrality.

It's a plausible answer, but the devil is in the details. If we're going to come up with regulations to keep the phone companies in line, we'll need to be sure they do the job. That means:

* The regulation should only catch companies when the free market and competition fail to protect customers. The long-distance fiber market, for example, has proven to be quite amenable to competition, as has the local ISP business. The rule has to be for the last mile, and only the last mile, whether delivered by wires or wireless.

* The rules should keep the phone companies in check without screwing the next generation of network services. Overlay carriers like FON, who provide last-mile connectivity by piggy-backing on the carriers' networks, should be free to play around with business models. This is about protecting us from monopolies in the last mile, not locking them in as the only last mile we'll ever get. We want to leash the Bells, not new innovators.
Read the rest, it's interesting, if complicated. I don't think we can just throw up our hands and say "the big companies will take care of this." Citizen involvement--Net user involvement--is going to be needed at every stage of the process.

- tom moody 6-26-2006 5:49 pm

I can't believe this isn't a topic on everyones blog. If net neutrality can't be maintained we can kiss our blogs goodbye. I don't think the government meant to qualify free speech with "to those who can afford it in" when they drew up the constitution.
- Paddy Johnson 6-26-2006 9:56 pm

I think the Craiglist example is a good way to get it across. Is the internet like a phone call or is it like your TV cable? Most people would say it should be the former.
The problem is the Telcos are deliberately trying to confuse the issue, putting out the stupid idea that "if the government is allowed to regulate the internet your service will degrade."
It's already regulated! The government gives the phone companies "an exclusive" to handle what Doctorow calls "the last mile"--the lines in and out of your home. They get to charge for that gov't granted privilege, in exchange for playing fair with calls--not favoring one customer over another. The companies want to get into the TV business, and in the course of that are trying to corrupt the legislative process so they can put their thumb on the "common carrier" scale, counting on public ignorance and disinformation about what they're up to.
Blogs can help by clarifying the issues. I don't think you have to understand all Doctorow's minutiae to know these folks don't like the freedom we currently have--to make, find, and choose our own content.
- tom moody 6-26-2006 10:20 pm

I like the analogy to cable tv. Most people do not realize the difference between "push" and "pull" media. I know I didn't. I think it was the Amazon.com guy (best I can do to credit this analogy, sorry) who cleared that up in my mind by explaining the "get" command. We all pay for our service and then we can ask our browser to "get" the info we want, we ask it to send the info, there is nothing in the pipe before we do that- whereas with cable tv everything we pay for is just sitting there in the box on top of our television. I've been trying to use this analogy to rally the troops, but some still don't get it. For some reason the average American, in my experience, thinks that corporations SHOULD be able to charge us whatever they want, for whatever they want, that it is their right and somehow sacrosanct.

The campaign waged by Hands off the Interent has been so very, very cynical. I called my state senator and tried to explain all of this, even threatened to vote for his challenger- I would never vote for a Republican though- but I doubt this will deter the bastards.

If this go through, you can always switch your blog to Myspace,lol. I'm sure that Murdoch will keep it in the fast lane.
- Robert Huffmann (guest) 6-27-2006 4:50 am

I goofed in my sentence above: "Most people would say it should be the former" (ie, like a phone call) is what I meant. I originally said "the latter" (like cable TV)--fixed now.
- tom moody 6-27-2006 5:04 am

Great article. I also agree that the "get" command is a great distillation of the issue.

Cory refers to "creative destruction". I'm not sure how much currency that term has outside of the high tech business world. But it's one of the key things at stake. An open environment allows for the creation of Yahoo, Hotmail, Google, Youtube, etc. Along the way of creating new ways of doing things, other companies are destroyed. That's the free market. The telcos want to leverage their advantage in the regulated monopololy to protect themselves from creative destruction on the content side. That's not the free market, although they want to call it that.
- mark 6-27-2006 8:40 am

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