‘Net Neu­tral­ity’ is a smoke­screen for cor­po­rate wel­fare

Woonsocket Call - - Opinion - By THOMAS L. KNAPP

“Ver­i­zon Wire­less was just caught in the act of what looks like a bla­tant vi­o­la­tion net neu­tral­ity,” writes Kurt Wal­ters of Demand Progress in a fundrais­ing mes­sage to the In­ter­net ac­tivist group’s email list. “Last week, with­out warn­ing or per­mis­sion from its cus­tomers, Ver­i­zon throt­tled band­width speeds down to 10Mbs. Users try­ing to stream video or use cer­tain apps were caught in an in­ter­net slow lane and couldn’t do any­thing about it.”

I’ve writ­ten a num­ber of col­umns on Net Neu­tral­ity. Quick re­cap: Un­der­neath all the talk about pre­serv­ing a “free and open In­ter­net,” Net Neu­tral­ity is just a cor­po­rate wel­fare scam un­der which Big Con­tent band­width hogs like Ama­zon, Google, and Net­flix hope to re­dis­tribute the costs of build­ing in­fra­struc­ture to carry their con­tent, from their cus­tomers to In­ter­net users in gen­eral. It’s a dan­ger­ous cor­po­rate wel­fare scheme (it en­ables In­ter­net cen­sor­ship by putting the FCC in charge of defin­ing “le­gal” ver­sus “il­le­gal” con­tent). It’s a com­pli­cated cor­po­rate wel­fare scheme (a friend in the tele­com in­dus­try is try­ing to ed­u­cate me on things like “peer­age agree­ments” and such). But it’s just a cor­po­rate wel­fare scheme.

As the FCC con­sid­ers re­peal­ing the 2015 Net Neu­tral­ity rule, its sup­port­ers are des­per­ate to as­so­ciate bad things with its ab­sence. So des­per­ate that ex­amD-emand Progress is ad­ver­tis­ing ples vi­o­la­tions

of Net Neu­tral­ity as of Net Neu­tral­ity.

At least one Ver­i­zon cus­tomer tells me he thinks the whole throt­tling story is – I hate to use the term – “fake news.” He didn’t no­tice any slow­down. But if there was one, well, let’s see what the FCC says about that. From the com­mis­sion’s con­sumer guide to the “Open In­ter­net,” aka Net Neu­tral­ity:

“Broad­band providers may not de­lib­er­ately tar­get some law­ful in­ter­net traf­fic to be de­liv­ered to users more slowly than other traf­fic.”

Demand Progress’s ac­cu­sa­tion is not that Ver­i­zon slowed down some traf­fic in or­der to speed up other traf­fic. The ac­cu­sa­tion, rather, is that Ver­i­zon slowed down ALL­traf­fic on its net­work, for what­ever rea­sons. In other words, Ver­i­zon treated all traf­fic equally – thereby act­ing in strict ac­cor­dance with the Net Neu­tral­ity rule.

Yes, the al­leged slow­down would have had a greater ef­fect on apps and con­tent that use more band­width. Get­ting an email slowly isn’t es­pe­cially no­tice­able; get­ting high def­i­ni­tion video slowly is VERYno­tice­able. That’s a pre­dictable ef­fect of Net Neu­tral­ity’s demand that all con­tent be treated equally.

To put it a dif­fer­ent way: Demand Progress’s com­plaint isn’t that Ver­i­zon vi­o­lated Net Neu­tral­ity. Demand Progress’s com­plaint is that Net Neu­tral­ity in­her­ently brings with it ex­actly the op­po­site of the re­sult its ad­vo­cates claim for it.

Moral of the story: Be care­ful what you wish for – and when you get it, don’t com­plain about it.

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