Technology: September 2010 Archives

Many of my fellow conservative bloggers have been beating the drum loudly in opposition to proposals for "Net Neutrality." I can understand their skepticism -- truth-in-labeling laws don't apply to legislation and net neutrality is no more likely to be about neutral handling of internet data than NAFTA is a simple declaration of free trade between the U. S., Canada, and Mexico. Special provisions and sneaky codicils find their way into what should be a simple expression of a simple idea. I wouldn't be shocked if a Democrat net neutrality proposal in fact imposed net bias through some obscure amendment passed in the dead of night.

Nevertheless, the concept of net neutrality is not one that conservatives should dismiss out of hand. This concept is not a Fairness Doctrine for the internet that would require every website to provide equal time for every point of view. It is the simple notion that packets should be routed by the backbone and by ISPs without regard to the contents, source, or destination, in the same way that the phone company connects calls and the postal service delivers mail. Only in a case of abuse (e.g., denial-of-service attack) should the ISP care about what data is going where.

It's a mistake to think about this issue in terms of the free market. There are high barriers to entry to the ISP market; one of the biggest is getting local government permission to run your cables or build your towers on, over, or under their property. Where I live, we have two choices -- the phone company and the cable company. If both providers choose to allow their customers access only to a limited number of "partner" websites (imposing the cable TV tiering model on the internet), I wouldn't have any alternatives, and it might mean I could no longer read my favorite conservative bloggers and news sites.

An internet that routes data without discriminating based on content, source, or destination is what we have now, for the most part. There is now a low barrier to entry to publish your information and make it available for the world to see. If ISPs begin to discriminate in favor of certain sites, it may mean bloggers would have to pay a high fee to each ISP to gain access to those customers. You might also see ISPs pressured by the usual suspects on the left to cut off access to conservative websites.

(To the argument that ISPs aren't engaged in this kind of discrimination yet: I don't think they will until they feel comfortable that net neutrality is dead and buried. If they were to begin now, it would build popular support for net neutrality.)

The future of the internet as a medium for free speech and public accountability needs true net neutrality -- an internet infrastructure that passes data along without regard to content, source, or destination.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Technology category from September 2010.

Technology: August 2010 is the previous archive.

Technology: December 2010 is the next archive.

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