Ignorant Geek-in-Law Knows Little About “Net Neutrality”

Update: I just got the following message via Twitter from the folks over at Hightower Lowdown, so that the full text of their article on net neutrality is now available online. Kudos! I will write a new post (sans claims of “irony”) after reading the full text:
“the irony was not lost on us– I just unlocked it. we struggle a lot with the biz model internally. :-/”

What – my beloved Google is now in the evil spotlight?!? Jeez – I mean.. they’re ON MY ICE-CREAM LIST.

While it’s true that I personally once spent several years boycotting Google, after what I considered to be an embarrassing blot on their history concerning copyright and the DMCA (with a splash of Scientology thrown in), in recent years I really just think they’ve been stellar, in most every way.

But, as the geek-in-law of my family, I occasionally am approached with questions about obscure areas of technology of which I know zilch.

I know a little more than zilch about net neutrality. But I have some strong opinions, nonetheless. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’ve heard a bit about this story involving Google and Verizon in the news, you may have come across some of the following “opinion” pieces:

And, in a move which can only be described as.. “ironic”, Jim Hightower decided to cover the story in an elongated teaser article that starts off with a lot of hoopla and hysterics, and then cuts to a “Paid Subscribers Only” type of message before it gets to anything substantial – on the Hightower Lowdown. While I don’t particularly mind paying the $10 per year to get access, I’m also not so sure that Jim Hightower is the person I want to get my technology policy opinion from (perhaps I am wrong about any implied lack of technical insight – I only remember him vaguely from some published articles I’ve seen at some point in the past). On the other hand, it may be better to hear about this issue from someone with lay technical opinions, but there is something about the bit of the article that was available free that just seemed.. wrong. And overly hoopla.

The other coverage I’ve seen hasn’t struck any chords with me either. For example, there is this quote from someone named Joel Kelsey:

Google and Verizon can try all they want to disguise this deal as a reasonable path forward, but the simple fact is this framework, if embraced by Congress and the Federal Communications Commission, would transform the free and open Internet into a closed platform like cable television.
Hereโ€™s The Real Google/Verizon Story: A Tale of Two Internets

I’m not sure why Mr. Kelsey thinks access to the Internet is free of charge. To the best of my knowledge (outside of Netzero), there has never been an Internet equivalent of free broadcast television. In fact, right from the start of consumer use of the Internet, it was a paid service. Not only that, but consumers have always seemed happy to pay for it twice or more (e.g., when a family has Internet access for the home, and then an Internet data access plan on each cell phone). The only place where you could (sort of) say the Internet is free is on the “free” wifi that you can find in many places. But that’s just because some company, municipality, or organization decided to pay for you, and donate the service – the service itself was never free. Besides, free wifi is, as often as not, not the easiest to use or the best of quality.. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

So I have a lot more thinking to do, but my gut feeling is that there is nothing at all wrong with what seems to be the contentious issue – that of the creation of a second, “premier” Internet. We already have many levels of Internet, available via all sorts of providers, devices and price points, and everyone is free to choose which they like.

Personally, I kinda think the Internet will be better for everyone, once the virus wormers and phishing scammers are relegated to their own separate, exclusive pipes, where they can’t mess with my Netflix downloads – I’m not convinced that “net neutrality” is all it’s cracked up to be. ๐Ÿ™‚

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not claiming there isn’t real hoopla hiding in here somewhere – I’m just not sure how to recognize it among all the mock-hoopla I’m seeing so far. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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