The other side of Net Neutrality

Posted on February 2, 2012 by

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Large internet service providers are the leading forces against the network neutrality movement

While our primary interest on this blog is covering movements advocating for net neutrality, it is also important to know some of the basic arguments against net neutrality as well as key players that are against net neutrality.

One common argument against net neutrality legislation, is that it stifles innovation and investment.  (Implicit here is a world view that innovation can only happens for monetary and economic incentives–but that is a debate that I won’t get into here)

Another way is that this is a “solution searching for a problem”.  Is it fair for policy makers to create laws in anticipation of behavior that has not actually happened yet? Net neutrality skeptics argue that that there hasn’t actually been intentional slowing down or censorship of the internet by corporations, so it’s premature to regulate behavior that has not happened. This has also been taken further to insinuate that the government is playing referee, unfairly tilting the scale to new internet companies like Google at the expense of traditional giant corporations like ATT.  The different business models will become more contentious as the sharing aspect of the social Web 2.0 becomes ingrained into our daily lives. As an example, look at how music is now becoming social–on Spotify, one can share music with their friends.  Does this mean facebook is freeloading on bandwidth?

A last argument is that is this about the American spirit? The fight for net neutrality invokes an American spirit of progressivism–themes such as social justice, protections against predatory capitalism, etc are passionately highlighted.  However, conversely, individuality as well as a revulsion towards government intervention are American traits.  So there is definitely a tension here between progressivism and individualism.  In fact in ways, this is a rerun of the battles that happened when radio and television were young (you’ll note that there is no American equivalent of BBC).

Most aligned against net neutrality are powerful interest groups like “Freedom Works, a pro-less government, lower taxes, and more freedom” group.  The US Chamber of Commerce is another big players on this side.  Major Internet Service Providers like Verizon, ATT and Comcast are against net neutrality.    It is interesting to note the overlap  here between opponents of net neutrality, and proponents of the recent SOPA/PIPA acts.   At the heart of this seems to be two things–firs is control and ownership, and second is contending visions of what “America should be about” being played out in the virtual world. The internet is just one of the arenas, and this is something that we will see revisited whenever we talk about income inequality, OWS, SOPA/PIPA or other things related to “freedom”.  Another thing to consider as we move forward will be whether the entire idea of an open internet is itself is an elusive dream, that it will be controlled, whether it’s by Government, Corporations, or special interests, in which case is ones position on net neutrality simply a matter of picking your poison?

More information:

Wikipidea section on Network Neutrality opponents:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_neutrality#Opponents

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