Sunday, November 16, 2014

Obama and Net Neutrality, not necessarily a total win

I was so happy to see the headline about President Obama speaking out strongly in favor of Net Neutrality! It just made me glad.

But a few days' digestion and articles are trickling out that the FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had been working hard when I wasn't looking to develop a "hybrid proposal." Wheeler apparently believes his alternative could preserve the free and open nature of the Internet, while addressing the concerns of Internet providers that heavy users will clog the "arteries" and slow down traffic for everybody. Apparently, Wheeler was trying to put together a coalition of major players and convince them that his plan would work. And apparently, he was just starting to get some folks on board, when President Obama opened his big mouth and blew it all apart.

Now, it may not be a bad thing, because I am not convinced that Wheeler's alternative is actually going to preserve those aspects of Net Neutrality that I value. Obama's call to arms moves the parties involved away from compromise, or at least into a holding pattern, according to an in-depth article by the Washington Post.

At the start of this year, AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, among others, announced that they intended to enclose the Internet, and institute "pay to play" and additional fees so that those who were willing to pay more would get faster Internet download and upload speeds. Make no mistake, these large corporations see opportunity and plan to exploit it as far as they are allowed. But there has been a huge push-back, much of it from equally large, well-funded companies like Google, Twitter, Netflix, AOL, but also Bank of America, UPS, Visa and Ford. (Here is an interesting chart listing the largest lobbyers on both sides).

So, I guess it's a good thing that I wasn't spiffy doodle throwing up a congratulatory blog post here about President Obama's speech. I just don't know which way will work out best. But I know I want to preserve a free an open Internet! But it is interesting how some comments to the FCC have more effect than others. As George Orwell wrote in Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

The decoration for this blog post just happens to echo Napoleon the Pig's statement above, though it's about Net Neutrality. The image is signed by Kurt Griffith, 2006. It is featured now on a petition page for Net Neutrality by WatchDog.Net ( I believe the petition is active and is in response to FCC Chair Tom Wheeler's negotiations for his hybrid model.