Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Net Neutrality

There's been a lot of debate over net neutrality lately. It's an interesting debate. I can sympathize with the net neutrality supporters, but must oppose their efforts.

They have some good arguments with regards to free speech. One could imagine ISPs blocking "questionable" content from their end users. That could start off being things like kiddie porn sites hosted in the Czech Republic, etc. That's an obviously slippery slope to go down, and sites could be blocked based on politics or religion, much like we see with The Great Firewall of China. Free speech is incredibly important so I can definitely sympathize with the concern here.

Many of the backers of net neutrality have far less noble principles. This includes some of the big web companies like Google and Yahoo. They have an obvious and selfish agenda. They are starting to offer video services online -- services that consume large amounts of bandwidth. They are worried that cable operators will either deny or slow down their services unless some kind of payment is made to them. This would obviously hurt Google's ability to compete with these cable companies on video services.

I can see how that seems awfully unfair Google, but so what? It's not Comcast's duty to make it easy for Google to compete with them. In fact their shareholders would say it's their duty to do just the opposite. Nobody has to make things easy for Google. The world is not fair.

It's ridiculous to say we should pass laws to help Google compete with Comcast. Of course I know the argument that some would make, that such compettition will mean cheaper/better services for consumers. So what? The Constitution is not about cheaper better services for consumers, and when you pass laws you better talk about The Constitution. At the end of the day a net neutrality law would limit the ability of a private part to use its own property as it sees fit. That's a big deal. Anytime you are going to tell people how they can use their property, you better have some real good reasons. Protecting Google is not a good reason.

But what about free speech? The importance of the internet as the ultimate vehicle for speech should not be downplayed. How much of the information you absorb comes from online sources? Ultimately, free speech as a right is with regards to the government. The government cannot prevent people from exercising their right to free speech. Other people can certainly stop you. I can speak in public and get booed. It's the government's job to arrest the boo-birds so that my speech can be heard. I can send a letter to the editor of my newspaper, and my newspaper doesn't have to print it. It's not the government's job to make the newspaper print my letter. I can email a video to my local tv station, but they don't have to show it on the news. It's not the government's job to make show my video. So I can make a website and it's not the government's job to make sure that people can access my website.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

No comments: