Net Neutrality: The Enemy of My Enemy is My Facebook Friend
Net Neutrality is one of those wonky issues that just begs to be skipped over. In a world of limited mental bandwidth, some things are just kicked to the side so that we can spend time thinking and reading about important stuff, like taxes and illegal immigration and mosques in downtown Manhattan and Tiger Woods' divorce.
Here's the nutshell version: should internet service providers be required to carry all data -- no matter whose -- for the same rate? Meaning, should they be prohibited from charging, say, Facebook traffic or Hulu videos less -- or more -- than some New Internet Startup to carry their packets of data?
My answer: no. I'm against regulating ISPs. If they want to charge more for some data and less for another kind, my view is, let them. If their customers don't like it, they'll walk. If there aren't enough ISPs in a region to foster useful competition, then attack the problem that way, by creating ISP competition, not by regulating (or, really, pre-regulating businesses before there's even a problem to address). There's a cogent argument against Net Neutrality here.
Other people answer a different way. Some think web innovation and entrepreneurial zeal will suffer if big companies (like Google and Verizon) get together to make data transportation prohibitively expensive for smaller startups. Some think that the web needs to be divided into two bright categories: companies that move and deliver data, and companies that create the data to be transported. There's a cogent -- and conservative -- argument for Net Neutrality here.
The best -- and clearest -- explanation of both positions can be heard on NPR's "Planet Money" podcast, which is really excellent.
Meanwhile, the debate has made for some strange bedfellows. From The Hill:
The Gun Owners of America (GOA) severed ties with the net-neutrality coalition Save the Internet after a conservative blog questioned the association with liberal organizations such as ACORN and the ACLU.
The blog RedState described Save The Internet as a "neo-Marxist Robert McChesney-FreePress/Save the Internet think tank" and questioned why GOA would participate in a coalition that includes liberal groups such as the ACLU, MoveOn.Org, SEIU, CREDO and ACORN.
GOA was one of the charter members of Save the Internet, but a spokesman for the gun rights group said times have changed.
"Back in 2006 we supported net neutrality, as we had been concerned that AOL and others might continue to block pro-second amendment issues," said Erich Pratt, communications director for GOA.
"The issue has now become one of government control of the Internet, and we are 100 percent opposed to that," Pratt said.
Save The Internet had long pointed to the support of gun owners as evidence that net neutrality is a nonpartisan issue....
Save The Internet views net neutrality as a free speech issue rather than a liberal or conservative one. He noted the group’s membership still includes a number of conservative groups, including the socially conservative Parents Television Council and the Christian Coalition.
Anything that all of those groups agree on has got to be wrong, somehow.
But I love the idea of those furious, paranoid MoveOn-ers sitting next to SEIU thugs, sitting next to uptight Christian Coalition guys in blue suits, sitting next to heavyset ACORN ladies, sitting next to permanently scandalized Parents Television Council, all waiting outside the FCC hearing room to testify for Net Neutrality. Maybe after that they all go for a hilariously tense lunch together. Maybe to a local Chipotle or something. (Do they have those in DC?) The lunch ends badly when the Christian Coalition guy reaches out to hold the hands of the SEIU thug and the MoveOn-er to offer a little blessing before they all dig in. And he's too late, anyway, because the ACORN lady is already into the communal chips.
Wait. What were we talking about?