Monday, October 18, 2010

Net Neutrality Reworded

Rupert Murdoch - World Economic Forum Annual M...Image via Wikipedia
Fred Wilson: A Net Neutrality Case Study: Maybe we shouldn't call it Net Neutrality. Maybe we should call it a bill of rights for consumers on the Internet.
There are still landowners on the internet - like in the early days of America - who feel like they are the only ones who need to be able to vote. That is blasphemy. Fred Wilson is not new to the debate. But I really like his emphasis this time. Maybe net neutrality is a phrase that is not serving us too well. It makes it sound like there are two equally valid viewpoints. No, there are not. People for segregation and people against segregation were not both equally right. The internet is not a company, it is not a commercial venture. The internet is like the airwaves; it belongs to everybody.

It is particularly politically insightful of Fred to see that rewording could have a major impact on the outcome of this fight. From the very beginning of this debate I have been in disbelief. To me it feels like I am having to defend free speech, in America. Net neutrality i-s what the internet is. You take away net neutrality and at that point you have turned the internet into cable television. Don't tell me, but you will still be able to watch video clips. You w-i-l-l be missing the point.

Surfers of the web - and that is pretty much everybody - instinctively know the internet is different from all other media forms that have existed before. We can't allow the old guard to rob us from our new possibilities. Billions have been made on the internet, tens, hundreds of billions. But it is my firm belief we have barely scratched the surface.

I once heard a billionaire say there is enough marble just in West Virginia to build a mansion for every man, woman and child on the planet, but human organization has not evolved to that point. Minus the internet we are random air particles fruitlessly bumping into each other, getting in each other's way. With the internet such complex, meaningful organization becomes possible. It feels almost within reach.

Air, water, internet: it's that fundamental. I be damned if I start paying some kind of an air tax to Rupert Murdoch.

Let's call it The Netizen Bill Of Rights.

Logo for NetNeutralityImage via Wikipedia
That is the political viewpoint. The capitalism part is this. The ISP business in America is the most backward of all industries that impact the internet.

Barack Obama is no socialism. But the ISP business in America is. That sector fundamentally lacks competition. If prices had gone up proportionately - instead of going down like they have - the computers of today would have only been affordable to billionaires, if even them. Not even Fred Wilson - for all his wealth - might have been able to buy a smartphone.

The ISP business on the other hand is so out of sync. The cable companies doubled the price on what AOL used to charge to give us broadband. And it is not even broadband, not by global standards. This is not milk. This is cream powder.

The socialists who work day and night to demolish net neutrality need to be given a few doses of capitalistic free competition. Open up the airwaves. Reword the laws. Force the big companies to lease their pipes and wires to small ISP startups. Spending hundreds of billions on the roads and bridges of yesterday is no bridge to tomorrow. Unleashing competition in the broadband sector is a zero billion dollar proposition that will do what the stimulus bill did not do.

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