Saturday, July 5, 2008

Net Neutrality, Google, Washington, DC, and Choice

This, I'm not apathetic about.

About Net Neutrality, on the Net

There are two pieces of American legislation, one in the House, one in the Senate, that could affect how the Internet works in America.

I think these bills are important.

But, I'm not convinced that conventional wisdom is right: that the "Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008" will, if passed, protect us from 'Big Telephone' and maintain Net Neutrality.

Odds are that if you heard that dissenting view expressed, it was described negatively, by someone who wants Washington, DC, to protect you from 'Big Telephone.'

My impression of the "Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008" was very positive, until I noticed how many people and organizations were talking about it in glowing, and rather vague, terms.

That got me curious, so I did a little checking around:
  • "A Note to Google Users on Net Neutrality:"
    Google (2008)
    • "The Internet as we know it is facing a serious threat. There's a debate heating up in Washington, DC on something called 'net neutrality' – and it's a debate that's so important Google is asking you to get involved. We're asking you to take action to protect Internet freedom.
    • "In the next few days, the House of Representatives is going to vote on a bill that would fundamentally alter the Internet. That bill, and one that may come up for a key vote in the Senate in the next few weeks, would give the big phone and cable companies the power to pick and choose what you will be able to see and do on the Internet.
    • "Today the Internet is an information highway where anybody – no matter how large or small, how traditional or unconventional – has equal access. But the phone and cable monopolies, who control almost all Internet access, want the power to choose who gets access to high-speed lanes and whose content gets seen first and fastest. They want to build a two-tiered system and block the on-ramps for those who can't pay...."
  • " 'Net neutrality' war comes to fore"
    International Herald-Tribune (September 26, 2007)
    • "NEW YORK: Saying it had the right to block 'controversial or unsavory' text messages, Verizon Wireless last week rejected a request from Naral Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group, to make Verizon's cellular network available for a text-message program.
    • "The other leading wireless carriers accepted the program, which allows people to ask to receive text messages from Naral by sending a message to a five-digit number known as a short code.
    • "Text messaging is a growing political force in the United States and a dominant one abroad, and such programs are used by many political candidates and advocacy groups to send updates to supporters...."
  • "Frequently Asked Questions" (undated)
    • "What is this about?
      "When we log onto the Internet, we take a lot for granted. We assume we'll be able to access any Web site we want, whenever we want, at the fastest speed, whether it's a corporate or mom-and-pop site. We assume that we can use any service we like -- watching online video, listening to podcasts, sending instant messages -- anytime we choose.
      "What makes all these assumptions possible is Network Neutrality.
    • "What is Network Neutrality?
      Network Neutrality -- or "Net Neutrality" for short -- is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet.

      "Put simply, Net Neutrality means no discrimination. Net Neutrality prevents Internet providers from speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination.
      "Net Neutrality is the reason why the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation, and free speech online. It protects the consumer's right to use any equipment, content, application or service on a non-discriminatory basis without interference from the network provider. With Net Neutrality, the network's only job is to move data -- not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service....
  • "H.R.5353
    Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008
    Open Congress
    • "To establish broadband policy and direct the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a proceeding and public broadband summits to assess competition, consumer protection, and consumer choice issues relating to broadband Internet access services, and for other purposes...."
  • "CCAGW Opposes Internet Freedom Preservation Act"
    IP Communications (May 7, 2008)
    • "The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) is reportedly opposing H.R. 5353, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008. The House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held hearings on this act yesterday.
      "CCAGW president Tom Schatz that anytime Congress attempts to protect anything, it usually means more regulation, less competition, less consumer choice, and higher costs.
    • "He said the market for high-speed Internet services should remain open to competition without government interference.
    • "H.R. 5353 inserts net neutrality principles into the 1934 Telecommunications Act and defines broadband policy. Although H.R. 5353 adds heavy-handed government regulation and oversight, it ignores the fact that consumers have more Internet choices than ever before. Today, cable, satellite and wireless broadband providers are competing head-to-head for customers. In a bid to beat competition they are providing better services at lower prices...."
I'm not urging you to call your representatives and support this bill, or saying that you should tell them to block it. I haven't made up my own mind about this.

But I'm dubious about this well-intentioned effort to save us from our Internet Service Providers.

For starters, one of the biggest proponents of the "Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008" is Google. I like Google, as a search engine, and I've heard that they provide excellent customer service.

However, Google's record on freedom of speech and censorship isn't all that unblemished. Remember Google's accommodation of the Chinese leaders' requirements, back in 2006?

I think that much of the decision, about whether or not to support the "Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008" will boil down to a matter of preference. Who do you want to have control of which Internet service provider you use, and what that provider can do for you:
  • You, and millions of other people like you, choosing which of an array of competing providers you use
  • The politicos and bureaucrats in Washington, deciding which provider will show you what information
When you've made up your mind, Here are some 'contact Congress' pages:

Names of the "Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008"

To establish broadband policy and direct the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a proceeding and public broadband summits to assess competition, consumer protection, and consumer choice issues relating to broadband Internet access services, and for other purposes.
Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008
Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008.
(From Open Congress)
Where the bills are in Congress:

House of Representatives


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