In Simply Recognizing The Problem, We May Find A Solution

10 11 2010

Literate techie manifesto Ars Technica grabbed my attention by questioning whether or not the Internet is dead. Intrigued, I read on.

While I was disappointed to discover another passive aggressive plea for net neutrality, it highlighted to me a notion I hadn’t previously considered in the great debate of the open Internet’s future: the very fact that the FCC has considered the possibility of the Internet someday not being open is a tremendous step in propelling net neutrality legislation.

The article, written by Ars Technica contributer Matthew Lasar, features excerpts of a letter written to the FCC praising them for considering the implications of prioritized data servicing. The group, referring to the letter as the “joint reply comments of various advocates for the open Internet,” lists over 30 members, including Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak.

In December, the FCC wrote a proposal to supplement its Internet Policy Statement; said proposal included a provision banning Internet Service Providers from prioritizing traffic, as well as a transparency rule requiring ISPs to submit records of their network management practices. And that’s great.

However, the FCC still included in the proposal a section asking for comment on whether “managed or specialized services” should be allowed traffic prioritization. Such “specialized services” might include “telemedicine, smart grids, and eLearning applications,” but as Lasar also pointed out, it might include AT&T’s U-Verse.

The FCC also wanted feedback on whether or not prioritizing “specialized services” would stifle or stimulate investment in broadband technology, and whether or not traffic prioritization would leave enough bandwidth for the rest of user traffic on shared networks.

I think its fantastic that the FCC is contemplating these issues; don’t get me wrong. It confounds me though that when they have these provisions of the Internet Policy Statement already written and laid out, they insist on asking for feedback; it’s a sign of weakness and insecurity.

And now with the heavier Republican presence in Congress since midterms, the FCC canbe sure that their work with net neutrality is cut out for them.

However, Lasar manages to leave his piece on an optimistic note; he quotes excerpts from the letter addressed to the FCC, specifically such motivating bits like, “Transmitting packets without regard for application, in a best efforts manner, is at the very core of how the Internet provides a general purpose platform that is open and conducive to innovation by all end users,” and, “policy-making channels have not recognized the inherent value of the general purpose platform—and how this platform reflects the values of openness, free expression, competition, innovation and private investment.”

By highlighting these intensely American values represented by the idea of an open Internet, he describes the thought of net neutrality as “an intellectual time capsule.” Though it is bleak to think that net neutrality might be completely buried under the bullshit of today’s politics, it is at least positive to hope that it might be recovered and implemented by future generations with the knowledge they have of our times. Who knows, maybe it’ll be my generation.