My Net Nootrality Studies

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If I write “net nootrality” the way it should be spelled, my posts pop up on a zillion google alerts — which produce an avalanche of emails from stakeholders in the debate.
I’m trying to get ready for a China trip so I can’t handle an email tsunami this week. But suffice it to say that I’ve spent some time with players in the Net N standoff from across the spectrum and have some more commiserating and learning to do — but this is a really intriguing, high stakes policy challenge.
However, at the end of last April, I received this email from some Net N enthusiasts committed to laissez-faire gaming rights:

Group InfoName: Gamers For Net Neutrality
Type: Organizations – Non-Profit Organizations
Description: Stand up for your gaming rights and join more than 1.5 million Americans of every political persuasion in the fight for Net Neutrality — the principle that ensures that gamers are free to go where they want, do what they like, and connect with whom they chose online.
Without Net Neutrality, your Internet Service Provider is free to charge you extra for playing World of Warcraft®, to interfere with Xbox Live®, or to completely shut off your ability to access your favorite Web sites. Net Neutrality affects your entire online experience!
Join Gamers for Net Neutrality. Together, we’ll fight to protect Internet freedom and find innovative ways to educate the entire gaming community about the importance of this issue.
http://www.theeca.com/gamers_net_neutrality

Frankly, I don’t even really want to comment on this. I just want to have it here as it reminds me of some of the odd bedfellows that hang around with civic-minded, commons concerned advocate organizations like Free Press (though I should say that I see no connection between FP and the senders of this email — just a common cause).
But more to digest on the subject which does fascinate me. The infrastructure upgrade costs of the internet backbone — which is privately held in many different hands — is going to be staggering, and the question of who will pay and how is not insignificant.
More soon.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

14 comments on “My Net Nootrality Studies

  1. WigWag says:

    More reason to be concerned!
    From Corrente
    Google to release YouTube users’ viewing data to Viacom
    Submitted by Davidson on Thu, 2008-07-03 15:45.
    According to BBC News: a US court ruled that Google must release the viewing history of YouTube users to Viacom in order to comply with copyright infringement laws. Google’s legal counsel said: “We will ask Viacom to respect users’ privacy and allow us to anonymise the logs before producing them under the court’s order.”
    Apparently, privacy experts find this ruling a tad, uh, frightening:
    Leading privacy expert Simon Davies told BBC News that the privacy of millions of YouTube users was threatened. He said: “The chickens have come home to roost for Google.
    “Their arrogance and refusal to listen to friendly advice has resulted in the privacy of tens of millions being placed under threat.”
    Mr Davies said privacy campaigners had warned Google for years that IP addresses were personally identifiable information.
    Google pledged last year to anonymise IP addresses for search information but it has said nothing about YouTube data.
    Mr Davies said: “Governments and organisations are realising that companies like Google have a warehouse full of data. And while that data is stored it is under threat of being used and putting privacy in danger.”
    The EFF said: “The Court’s erroneous ruling is a set-back to privacy rights, and will allow Viacom to see what you are watching on YouTube.
    “We urge Viacom to back off this overbroad request and Google to take all steps necessary to challenge this order and protect the rights of its users.”
    The body said the ruling was also potentially unlawful because the log data did contain personally identifiable data.

    Reply

  2. FaceOnMars says:

    I’d prefer the U.S. lag “behind” the rest of the world if the choice was either net nootral vs. global competitive internet infrastructure. If there are other pathways of development to pay for expansion while preserving nootrality, then why the emphasis on setting up the express lanes of private interest?
    It’s a drumbeat which is all too familiar.
    A consolidated & hemogenous internet in the hands of the few is a potentially dangerous political weapon, aside from the broad range of implications across the various niches which occupy cyberspace.
    A non-nootral net will ultimately be very Matrix-esq … and awfully difficult to reverse once implemented.

    Reply

  3. arthurdecco says:

    Thanks for the link, Rich.
    I read it. Fascinated.

    Reply

  4. WharfRat says:

    Let’s imagine the internet as a physical space so that we can imagine Ben Bartlett’s two proposed solutions, which seem to me to be the most popular. Imagine a sidewalk that we as neighbors share. Of course, this isn’t any ordinary sidewalk: we actually pay a company a monthly rent the sidewalk so that it will be easier to access our businesses and houses. Some of us are small business owners, some of us simply cultivating our gardens, others of us are community organizers; there’s also a public library, a park, and a minor league baseball stadium that everyone in town enjoys. Some of the most popular businesses in our neighborhood are actually owned by the same people who own the sidewalk company. After years of foot traffic, bicycles, delivery people, etc., and the elements, the sidewalk is in need of repair, in front of some addresses more than others. This construction seems to fairly assess where we are, at least as the service providers see it.
    Solution one looks like this: those of us renting the sidewalk will shoulder the cost of repairs through increased rent, some of us paying more than others based on the amount of use our particular patch of sidewalk receives. But since the sidewalk is technically the property of the company, we can’t do our own repairs. If I’m a business owner, I might try to pay my increased share in kind, by doing some favor for the sidewalk company and its employees. The companies that sidewalk company also owns are probably getting a break–but we don’t really know, since all that information is private. If I’m just an average homeowner, my rent on the sidewalk will probably be unchanged. The government levies a small tax to pay its share of the increased rent for repairs on the sidewalks that service the public library and park. Some of the community organizations leave because they can’t afford the rent. I heard a rumor that an environmental group had their rent doubled because they were studying the quarry’s air quality impact.
    Solution two looks like this: the sidewalk company fronts the cost for repairs, but to pay for it, puts up a gate around our neighborhood and charges visitors a toll to come into the neighborhood. Most everyone stays put, but some smaller businesses close because they didn’t get as much traffic; the park is a bit emptier, and the public library only serves those of us who live in the neighborhood. The citizens vote down a tax to build another library in another neighborhood. Things for me, a lowly homeowner, go on relatively unchanged. I start seeing less and less of a few friends, who can’t afford to pay the toll on top of their gas prices.
    This experiment, while flattening an admittedly complex issue, is helpful for me in thinking through the issue and the possible consequences of the two most widely proffered solutions. When I conceptualize them this way, neither seems to me like a particularly good solution. Perhaps thinking through it this way will be helpful for others, too. Perhaps there are some other unthought solutions out there.

    Reply

  5. rich says:

    Anybody interested in cutting through the hype, hyperbolae, and politically motivated spin to get some clarity and a clean grasp of what’s at stake—
    —I’d urge you to watch Bill Moyers’ “The Net at Risk.”
    This is the best explication by journalists I’ve seen to date. The experts define why the information superhighway is infrastructure—an public, common good to which each citizen must have reasonable and equitable access.
    I watched the original broadcast—and whatever you think of Moyers, I challenge anyone to tackle the facts his experts present and provide a counter-argument—if you can come up with one. And btw, mere contradiction and public relations spin don’t count.
    This is not just about free expression and equal access—but whether America can harness the productive potential of citizens regardless of location, age or station in life—and build a new economy and a competitive nation.
    That requires infrastructure. The alternative is exclusivity, profiteering, and a chokehold on economic opportunity and the power to participate in public life—across the political spectrum and irrespective of social station.
    I am hopeful decision makers will use good conscience and come to the right decision.
    Web page here:
    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/moyersonamerica/net/index.html
    Transcript here:
    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/moyersonamerica/print/netatrisk_transcript_print.html

    Reply

  6. rich says:

    Anybody interested in cutting through the hype, hyperbolae, and politically motivated spin to get some clarity and a clean grasp of what’s at stake—
    —I’d urge you to watch Bill Moyers’ “The Net at Risk.”
    This is the best explication by journalists I’ve seen to date. The experts define why the information superhighway is infrastructure—an public, common good to which each citizen must have reasonable and equitable access.
    I watched the original broadcast—and whatever you think of Moyers, I challenge anyone to tackle the facts his experts present and provide a counter-argument—if you can come up with one. And btw, mere contradiction and public relations spin don’t count.
    This is not just about free expression and equal access—but whether America can harness the productive potential of citizens regardless of location, age or station in life—and build a new economy and a competitive nation.
    That requires infrastructure. The alternative is exclusivity, profiteering, and a chokehold on economic opportunity and the power to participate in public life—across the political spectrum and irrespective of social station.
    I am hopeful decision makers will use good conscience and come to the right decision.
    Web page here:
    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/moyersonamerica/net/index.html
    Transcript here:
    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/moyersonamerica/print/netatrisk_transcript_print.html

    Reply

  7. JamesL says:

    The internet started as a national security concern, and it has morphed into a much larger–one could easily say, essential– national security necessity. One can longer rely on news media to supply adequate information to make informed judgements. The internet has moved into the informational vacuum created by the departure of new media for the green fields of opinion-as-news. As Boorstin in The Image quoted Adolph Hitler in Mein Kampf nearly fifty years ago: “Propaganda….is information intentionally biased.” (p.34)Hitler’s description fits Fox News’ stated goals to a T. We now have a self-admitted national propganda channel, and a pressure for other media to move in that direction. This tendency is suicidal (no other term fits) for a democracy. Bandwidth is not a good metric because the Inet surfer has no coice about how many byte intensive whatzits a web site places. Same argument goes for speed. What is clear is that without the cost free exchange of news and information, some citizens will be made unequal by chance, and be prevented from receiving information necessary to making informed judgements. With “news” the way it is now, if net nootrality is displaced by the need to make a profit, kiss democracy goodbye. The real bottom line is: Do Americans value profit more than being informed? If so, get ready for the jackboots.

    Reply

  8. Mr.Murder says:

    You must call it something, call it Swiss Cheese instead of net nootrality.
    Swiss for being nootral,
    cheese because there’s holes in its presentation that either side can see.
    It’s a first amendment issue, nothing more or less.

    Reply

  9. pauline says:

    There is some talk that in the next few years internet service will become just like cable tv –forced choices and not full access especially by the many smaller players.
    If we start to see the usual media talking heads saying things like, “this is great for families to keep their children away from all the easily available porn. . .” then users have become suckered into thinking an internet offering of forced choices is great and the right thing to do.
    Open policital blogs and small independent sites will be choked by the lack of net neutrality. The big media/political players don’t like to compete with ANY competition. Hence, the move to a serious lack of internet choices will become the norm by law before the next presidential election in 2012.

    Reply

  10. Ben Bartlett says:

    As far as I can tell, there are two different ideas out there for tiered payment: 1. that content providers be charged to obtain better speeds—i.e., if you want to display videos at realtime, you need to pay more than if you just want to display text, or 2. that users be charged depending on how much bandwidth they are using—so people who are downloading large video files would be charged more than those who just use email.
    #1, I think, would be a disaster. It would give advantages to big media institutions like CNN vs. smaller organizations, like blogs, that might want to put video out there. Not to mention, you could end up with, for example, Time Warner cable giving advantages to their own websites over others. Etc., etc.
    #2, I’d be more-or-less ok with. Sure, if I’m a guy who downloads lots of movies, I’m not thrilled, but at least watching a video from a small blog is treated the same as watching a video from CNN. There’s no advantaging one source of information over another.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’d love my Internet access to be cheap and fast, but if it needs to be paid for somehow, #2 seems to be the better option.

    Reply

  11. TokyoTom says:

    Frankly, I’m with those who prefer to see limits to what areas of commerce our federal and state authorities to stake out as their fiefdoms to nanny us and bestow favors on those who are willing to pay for them by greasing the politicians

    Reply

  12. Ben Rosengart says:

    I think the intentional misspelling, and its reason, are at least as
    interesting as your main point.
    I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on N.N. so far. I am a
    network nerd myself …

    Reply

  13. Mr.Murder says:

    You should have just “nootered” it, Steve.

    Reply

  14. Steve Clemons says:

    arghh…i see “neutrality” is spelled out in the email I posted. Oh well…let the email wave begin.
    best to all — but realize that I’m packing…
    Steve

    Reply

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