Having Google and Verizon trying to reach their own compromise around net neutrality has me concerned. Having the FCC threatening a regulatory approach to net neutrality also has me concerned.
I’m just not sure which concerns me more.
I absolutely believe in the importance of net neutrality. It is the driving force behind the evolution and phenomenal growth of the entire web universe. It has allowed tiny startups to have global impact, and has provided the foundation for outsiders to challenge the status quo within institutions and across industries. Preserving net neutrality is central to securing the future viability of the internet.
The thought of having two major corporations – both representing today’s status quo – sitting down together to define what net neutrality should mean for everyone is a bit unsettling. I completely understand the FCC’s reaction and side with their desire to preserve an open internet:
Any outcome, any deal that doesn’t preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet for consumers and entrepreneurs will be unacceptable.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
So what concerns me with the FCC?
It’s really simple – ‘Regulated Net Neutrality’ isn’t the same as ‘Net Neutrality’. The net neutrality that has existed so far has been based on an ethos – a shared way of looking at the net. It can easily adapt to change and make exceptions as needed, because any decisions that are made are done through the lens of open and equal access.
Unfortunately, that isn’t how regulation works.
Regulations are lists of rules – not a code or belief. Some will be vague and others specific, but they will boil down to a list of behavioral do’s and dont’s. Once regulations are passed, the ‘moral code’ they are based on in some ways becomes irrelevant. Lawyers and courts start to become the driving forces behind what is and isn’t acceptable. The specific language of a regulation gets parsed, loopholes get added, and the process ultimately becomes political.
So where does that leave us?
On one side we have an internet defined by lawyers, courts, and politicians, and on the other side an internet defined by large corporations.
I’m simply not in a hurry to embrace either one right now.
I’m still not ready to walk away from the ethos of net neutrality.