Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Net neutrality


You may have seen web sites with one or both of these images. There's also a really atrocious TV ad called "Meet the phoneys" in which you don't even see a person or any discussion of specifics, just an image of a close-up of pair of men's shoes, walking, and a voice over saying that the phone companies want "sweetheart deals" from congress, then in small print, the tag of the association of butt-munchers, or whoever the hell they are. Actually, the butt-munchers are right, the phone companies do want a sweetheart deal from congress, but what the hell is the ad actually about?* I imagine most people tune it out. Have you seen the ad? (QT,and Windows MP )It's not always the fault of ordinary people when they are disengaged by political appeals. The butt-munchers don't even take advantage of their confusing mess of a message by telling you what their url is, which might pique your interest and turn the badness of the ad around into a mystery you might solve by clicking. They just show their association name so briefly it barely registers, if it even does.

*Ok, I'll tell you. They're the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, and the numbskulls do have a website, even if they can't be bothered to show it in their shoe ad. Like many other groups, they've been lobbying to prevent the passage of The Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement (COPE) Act, which would allow telcos to charge extra for broadband net service in a variety of ways, such as charging customers substantially more based on throughput or charging outside vendors to access their networks. (For example, if Comcast or Verizon wants you to use their in-house search engines instead of Google. Or Dogpile, or Yahoo, Lycos, etc.

then, they could charge Google or whoever to maintain access to their customers, or charge the customers who want to maintain that access, as if it was premium cable so to speak. (Or both. Or make access to outside vendors much slower.) In addition to the NCTA,, Google(of course),Microsoft, Common Cause and MoveOn and even the NRA and the Christian Coalition oppose COPE and have supported legislation designed to protect the principle of net neutrality, which is also explained pretty succinctly in this E&P article, and in a New Republic editorial (favoring neutrality). The house already voted in favor of COPE, but the Senate commerce committee takes it up today, and their site has info on how to contact your senator to express your view on the vote. Supposedly it will be close. (Here in Texas, Kaye Bailey Hutchison of said committee has not said how she intends to vote.) If you favor preserving net neutrality you would want your senator to vote in favor of the Snow-Dorgan amendment to the larger telecom bill, without any changes, rather than against COPE per se, because the Senate legislation is a bit different. They are discussing it today.

6.29: Ok, I originally wrote Hutchinson. Th' Bride of Acheron kindly corrected me, and since I've been living here thirty plus years I really should know, right?