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All Net Neutrality All The Time?

Net NeutralityLegislationI never intended for this blog to become a continual rant against net neutrality legislation, but daily events have me spending a lot of time examining the subject. This is probably both the most important and the most dangerous piece of legislation to bounce around in quite a while. Today’s rant comes courtesy of two articles on CNet and a running post on the Hotline’s blog.

Zoe Lofgren kicks us off with her take on Net Neutrality.

Two Stanford PhD students founded Google while working out of a dorm room, and in less than 10 years grew it into the world’s leading search engine. eBay’s founder wrote some auction software for his personal Web site, and now millions of buyers and sellers use eBay to trade with one another every day. Before Yahoo became one of the most popular Web portals, it started as a hobby on a student computer workstation. These examples attest to how the Internet empowers ordinary people to change the world. And with a free Internet, the ability of the next innovation to change the world is ever present.

While the Congresswoman tries her damnedest to make this seem like the giant telcos are picking on 5 guys who are still working out of their garages, the fact is she betrays her own argument. How? By listing the companies names. A quick look at their stock ticker symbols (GOOG, EBAY, and YHOO respectively) reveals a combined market capitalization of $210,000,000,000. That’s right. $210 BILLION dollars.

I have said it before and I will say it again. This is a fight between billion dollar companies. This is not about the little guy and his big dream. If it were, both sides could claim that position. After all, both cable and phone companies were born from groups of individuals who had little start up money and an idea.

The next piece of this debate that got me going today was the ongoing assault on a good friend – Mike McCurry. While Mike and I disagree on the relative merits of blogs and the blogoshpere, I put that down to his career path and mine. I have spent my adult life working on and with the Internet. He has spent his talking with and shaping the media. It is no wonder that he sees the blogs as an intimidating presence in the world of MSM and I see it as a balance to the pitfalls of media for money.

On Net Neutrality, however, he is dead on.

The Internet is not a free public good. It is a bunch of wires and switches and connections and pipes and it is creaky. You all worship at Vince Cerf who has a clear financial interest in the outcome of this debate but you immediately castigate all of us who disagree and impune our motives. I get paid a reasonable but small sum to argue what I believe. How many of the net neuts out there are honest about the financial resources and special interests behind your side of the argument? Do you really believe this is good v. evil or just an honest disagreement about what will make the ‘net flourish and prosper? What do you make of David Farber’s recent caution about the unintended consequences of regulating the Internet?

Speaking the truth and raising questions about the hypocrisy of left wing bloggers, as any Republican knows, will call down the thunder of ranting and screaming. The high pitched whine from the lefty blogs has reached a fevered pitch.

Not one of them, however, has dared to answer Mike’s questions – or mine. They call people names, they question their motives, they lie. It’s ironic. They engage in the very behavior they routinely accuse Republicans of engaging in. They refuse to address McCurry’s very valid points, and attack him personally as a sellout, a “tailspin of dishonesty” and “a wanker”.

Their argument is intellectually dishonest. Their frothing is attributed not to a real threat, but to the possibility that a threat might emerge someday. They refuse to engage on the issue, and instead attack the messenger – assured by their self-righteousness.

I, and others opposing net neutrality have examined the issue honestly. We have directly addressed the fact that this is a battle between billion dollar corporations. We have honestly declared that our side has a financial stake in the outcome. We have raised serious, challenging questions for those on the other side to answer.

They, however, have not chosen to have an honest discussion. They have denied their financial stake. They have misled the public about the threat by exaggerating the impact of a recent FCC ruling that has nothing to do with the debate. They have engaged in personal attacks.

If anyone would like to have an honest discussion on the merits of the net neutrality bill, you are free to leave a comment, or send me a note.

(Disclaimer: While I work for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, this post should in no way be construed as an official position of the Association. Thoughts in this space are mine and mine alone and do not reflect the views of my employer.)

Written by Michael Turk