Posted December 22, 2010 7:55 am by with 7 comments

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I will be very honest with you on this one. I lost interest in this whole net neutrality concept a long time ago when I started digging into it more. The more I looked into the various arguments and thoughts about what should or should not be, the more confused I got.

You see, I used to be the kind of person that would make a stand on one extreme of something without truly considering the other side. Honestly, it’s easier. Over time I have tried to look at both side of any issue (save a few but they aren’t for here) so I could be impartial until someone made an argument that was so compelling that I had to take a side.

With net neutrality though, I can honestly say that I have never seen a bigger cluster $%@ in my life. This whole ‘argument’ has just resulted in what I will deem ‘informed confusion’ for me. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? When you can’t really figure it out is when you realize that everyone is a little bit of both and you throw up your hands and say “I’m done!”.

What I have learned is that trying to be in the middle on an issue (maybe any issue) is near impossible. This whole joke of an FCC ‘ruling’ is evidence.

The folks at ars technica did a good job of showing just how ridiculous this whole thing is by giving views from both sides of the aisle, which shows that no one seems to be happy with this result.

First the views from the right.

Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell unleashed a biblical jeremiad against the order, accusing the FCC of becoming a “vigilante” which was taking this action only to help President Obama meet “a misguided campaign promise.”

Today was one of the “darkest days in recent FCC history,” he said, adding that he had received a final draft only at 11:42 pm the night before the vote. As for ISPs, “Nothing is broken in the Internet access market.”

He ended darkly by noting that the FCC’s “regulatory hubris” was a disease that could, thankfully, be cured by the courts.

Now the left.

“Despite promising to fulfill President Obama’s campaign promise of enacting Network Neutrality rules to protect an open Internet, the FCC has instead prioritized the profits of corporations like AT&T over those of the general public, Internet entrepreneurs, and local businesses across the country,” thundered Sascha Meinrath of the New America Foundation. “These failures place the Internet in peril of evolving into a system that will more and more resemble another cable network rather than an open Internet.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that “the FCC has failed to protect free speech and Internet openness for all users,” by not applying the same rules to wireless.

Even the Future of Music Coalition, which represents artists, lamented the fact that net neutrality “seemingly falls short of offering full protections.”

Nice work FCC. You have managed to get the right and the far left (ACLU) angry with you on this one. In other words, you screwed up big time.

I have decided that I am going to sit back and watch the legal histrionics on this one. Rather than form an opinion on the current state of affairs I am going to wait for the next current state of affairs to see if there is any more clarity. With the current head of the FCC, Julius Genachowski (who is a lawyer after all) I suspect clarity will be in short order. Let’s hope his tenure at the head of the FCC is as well.

Honestly, since this is in the hands of politicians and lawyers I can only guess that the stupidity has just begun. Meanwhile, if I wake up each day and have Internet access for the same price I am paying and I can do most things I usually do on the Internet (which is surprisingly boring actually) then I’ll be happy no matter which side ‘wins’. Of course, thinking this way will set me up for major disappointment because some change is on the way and these days change is not always a good word.

So what’s your take? Which side are you on and why? Make an argument for me to see it your way. PLEASE.

  • I once read a quote by an elder statesman (I can’t remember which one) which went something like, “You know you’ve done something right when both sides of the aisle are not happy with the decision.” Apparently his opinion was that in a true compromise, no one is completely happy with the decision.

    Perhaps this is something akin to that idea.

    • @Elmer – I suppose it could be but the two sides are more than just upset, they seem to be pissed. It looks like this will be handled in the courts and the time it takes to actually impact Internet users may be some time away … if ever.

      • Unfortunately, it’s the trend these days: The rules come out, then everyone looks to the courts to work out solutions to the mess. Not an efficient way to run things, if you ask me.

        As an amateur radio operator, I probably watch the FCC closer than the average person. Although they have come up with some clunkers over the past few years, they do respond fairly well to input and have put away ideas that weren’t working out (Broadband over Power Lines comes to mind).

        We’ll have to wait and see how the whole thing shakes out. Hopefully the better ideas will rise to the top and the “not so good” ones will be forgotten.

  • Joe Margolis

    I think you make your point well that there is no good middle of the road approach. But then, as demonstrated by your play on words with the headline, your post seems to be for resonating exasperation rather than adding any relevant insight into the issue.

    I agree with your take on the FCC’s rule making. But there is good way to understand this. Think of things first in the interest of the general public and then the shareholders of telecommunications companies. Those are the two competing interests and all one has to do to get it is to follow the money.

    To provide you some insight, here is a copy of “Changing Media” from Free Press.

    This stuff can be very hard to digest so I’d be glad to dialogue with you further and help you see why I believe strong net neutrality rules under title II are what we need.

    (Just need to read the 1st half of that book to get understanding of History of telecom policy since 1934 and the current issue at hand, net neutrality.)

    You can find me on Twitter @JosephMargolis. Please reach out.

    • @Joe – Kind of difficult to add insight when the whole thing seems to be a jumble in my mind. My insight is that if there were less politicians and lawyers and a little more common sense then these things wouldn’t train wreck to begin with.

      I’ll let everyone fight it out. Like the rest of the world, I am at the mercy of people who likely don’t have my best interest in mind no matter which side of the aisle or the argument they come from. Hate to be a cynic but what else is there today?

  • Frank-
    I completely agree with your sentiment on this issue. It’s definitely a cluster. I think the order is a step in the right direction for consumers, but I would like to see the same provisions applied to both wired and wireless Internet.

    I’m also extremely skeptical about how the “no unreasonable discrimination” portion of the order will be enforced. Consumers don’t know what ISPs are doing 100% of the time. For years people who work online have been told that there won’t be enough bandwidth available in the future, and to expect massive congestion.

    ISPs claim they have been constantly working to expand the size and throughput of their networks. Access ultimately is not free — someone eventually pays for it. If you access the web from a library or coffee shop for free, your taxes or the business owner are paying for access.

    I’m concerned that some networks will turn into fast lanes, and those with more $$$ will pay to access the web on those channels, and everyone who doesn’t have the resources will access the web via slower channels. Having the same access to everything that is available online is why the web is a great equalizer.

    Someone has to pay. But I don’t like seeing more Internet regulation, nor do I like seeing the web turned into the centerpiece of political tug of war. It’s information plain and simple, access should be kept free of all the political BS.

  • Net neutrality just became a huge joke.