I was flicking though my feeds this morning and caught a snippet of an article which began “Net neutrality sounds nice, but belongs more properly on the ash heap of failed ideological theories. In the real world, the net is not neutral”. This should be good I thought, as it is a statement – with some reservations – that I agree with, at least in the sense that the net is not neutral even now.
The general problem with any net neutrality debate is that it tends to mean different things to different people (and is only really a major issue in North America. We in Europe don’t really see this is being a big issue, quite possibly due to our different telecoms history/structure and the success of privatisation and competition law in this sector). But back to piece. It was written by Sonia Arrison, and can be summed up as follows: –
Bandwidth Hogs = Pirates / Illegal downloader’s.
Net Neutrality supporters = Piracy Supporters.
Net Neutrality = no price differentiation.
The piece begins with looking at a decision by Comcast to cut off some users it considered ‘bandwidth’ hogs and then makes the jump (without any evidence of course) to stating that these users were all obviously illegally downloading from p2p sites. She says that the bandwidth usage showed users either downloading lots of movies and songs or being spammers. Whilst conceding that legal downloading was on the rise she implies this decision was for illegal downloading.
Here she totally ignores things such as video gaming and streaming of Video and IPTV which also take up large amounts of bandwidth, but then again, as that doesn’t fit her argument it was no doubt easier to leave out. If all of Comcast customers use any online TV streaming – and most of the US networks stream their content now for free after broadcast – or they sign up for online TV venture Joost and start watching every day Comcast is going to be cutting off most of their customer base quite quickly. [For comparison an hours worth of streamed TV on Joost will use between 220MB – 350MB on bandwidth compared to per hour compared to a 40 minute episode downloaded via p2p which will use around 350MB].
All this is followed by another wonderful leap of illogic: “This begs the question: to what extent are supporters of net neutrality also tacitly supporting piracy?” Why not just say they support child porn, or that they’re all pro-life on abortion, or they all like carrots. She might as well, as there is about as much logic in those statements as in the one she makes.
She calls The Future of Music Coalition’s, Rock the Net, net neutrality position, ‘rather silly’ .Their silly position is that websites and services should be equally accessible on the Internet. My god, don’t these people know what they are doing? By supporting net neutrality ‘these artists may also be supporting the theft of their products online’ she opines – once again without proving any evidence/facts to back up this sweepingly stupid statement.
She then goes on to say that if you support net neutrality that you can’t support EMI/Apple’s move to sell non DRM music at a higher quality and higher price than the drm product because net neutrality says the ‘government shouldn’t allow such differentiation’. Seriously, what is she on about?. I have read a lot of stuff on both sides of this argument but I have obviously missed the bit that says net neutrality means all prices have to be the same. What muppet said that?
I should point out that Sonia Arrison is director of Technology Studies at the California-based Pacific Research Institute (PRI). I am sure she is, therefore, a bright and articulate person, and a glance at a couple of other things she has written lends some weight to this view. It is a shame then that this piece is just not very good, and is as bad an example of an article arguing that the pro net neutrality camp have it wrong, as I have read.