I’ve been listening for some time to a number of my friends who have been active in the “net neutrality” debate. To some, this is a technical debate that mostly means keeping our current content out on the internet — our current levels of blogging, of video, of emails — flowing relatively freely across different platforms, like phones, laptops, blackberries. . .you name it.
For others, this debate has become a holy crusade that means a lot more — and is fundamentally about a distrust for corporations and an embrace of “the people.” I don’t buy it.
I listened to Larry Page of Google recently, courtesy of my New America Foundation/Wireless Futures Program colleague Michael Calabrese — and basically Page is hoping for a world where tomorrow all information is open access and that it plays across all platforms equally. To me — perhaps at a misinformed level (I’m not sure) — this not sounds like a heavy dose of utopian socialism but it sounds like something that would work at this point for Google’s business plans — but something at odds with many of the other infrastructure parts of the internet and telecommunications worlds.
Page is a great guy — and Google’s transformation of the internet and the portals it has created have been stunningly impressive to watch. I just worry about the too easy embrace of ideologies on the net, particularly the next net — because I want better and more than we have today and sense America falling behind other states on telecom infrastructure, particularly Japan, Singapore and South Korea. Neutrality today to me seems fine — but down the road — I think that information flow is going to run differently — and yes, will create new tensions between haves and have-nots. That has been the part of the growth story in our country and the world.
I have no problem with trying to maintain neutrality with current capacities — but I’m all for new innovation, new investment, new build-outs of the telecommunications infrastructure in the country, and this may mean that business does carve out some privileged space for consumers on certain platforms. Otherwise, why would they invest?
I’m intrigued with this debate. I’m learning more — and am going to a session today to try and better understand various parts of this sometimes ferocious discussion.
I heard Barack Obama recently say that he is “for net neutrality.” I think we all may be — but the problem is that so far I’ve found about four different definiitions for the term, and I don’t think he is necessarily for what the most fervent leaders of net neutrality are for.
More on this later. I just wanted to signal that I am going to be writing and cogitating on this subject more — and I realize that I might be swimming against some currents of friends and associates on here.
— Steve Clemons