Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Great Net Neutrality Debate III

What is the probability that that the visionary ideal of a neutral internet can be fulfilled?

That question emerged in my mind as a result of articles posted on TechDirt and AgainstMonopoly. Evidently ESPN is floating the concept that ISPs should directly pay ESPN for providing content rather than at the consumer level. WIRED quoted Ben Scott, policy director for media reform and net neutrality advocate Free Press, as saying: ""Ultimately, if you carry it to its logical extreme — that's everyone charging for their content, and depending upon where you are and which ISP you're using to connect to the internet, your internet experience is different — that's a really unsettling prospect," says Scott. "I think it undermines the foundational principles that make the internet such an engine of innovation and creativity.""

Based on what I have been reading concerning the ongoing verbal assaults on network neutrality; Scott's comment makes me wonder if the concept of a neutral internet will eventually be eroded and debased into oblivion. We have already seen companies such a Comcast use abusive tactics euphemistically referred to as "traffic shaping" to control the flow of packets in violation of neutrality concepts. The RIAA and the MPPA are attempting to require that ISPs act as their private police force by reading (filtering) the flow of packets. Additionally, there are special interest groups that believe that the internet should somehow be "censored" to protect the unsuspecting public from the "demon of the day". The question naturally arises, if there is a constant unrelenting barage on a neutral internet, how long can the internet really remain neutral?

Unfortunately, it seems to me that the network neutrality debate remains myriad in the dogma that if the internet is not regulated that the free-market will magically keep it neutral. The anecdotal evidence, however, demonstrates that this is a false belief.

First, those who believe that the free-market will somehow protect a neutral intenet seem to be overlooking the obvious continued and repeated attempts of some network players to destroy network neutrality. Basically, if you don't initially succeed try again and again until you do succeeded, which seems to be the strategy being pursued by Comcast, the RIAA, and the MPPA.

Second, we seem to missing a call for companies to pursue an ethical course of action. If we do not want the internet to be regulated by an "oppressive" government, the obvious solution is to be proactive and solve the problem before aggravated citizens demand government intervention. I urge that those who analyze the network neutrality issue begin to demand ethical behavior that is outlined in an industry code of conduct that clearly defines network neutrality and obligates the players to work within the code of conduct.

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