Religion and I Chime In on Net Neutrality, and We Couldn’t (dis)Agree More!

by Jeff Wiener on August 12, 2010

It’s a rare day when religion and technology cross paths, as the two distinct spheres of existence often seem at distinct odds with each other. But in an interesting turn of events Rajan Zed, leader of the esoteric Nevada-based Universal Society of Hinduism, has called on Pope Benedict XVI and other religious leaders the world over to support the cause of Net Neutrality. Zed has claimed that free and open access to high speed Internet is a fundamental human right, on par with the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech.

Although Rajan Zed is, by all accounts, a schismatic leader of a particularly secretive American branch of Hinduism and, as far as I can tell, a self-appointed religious leader, his words ring true; everyone should have access to an Internet that is not governed by corporate greed…which is exactly why the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) should throw the Google/Verizon Net Neutrality proposal directly into the garbage.

Sure it’s nice to see companies like Google and Verizon taking an interest in preserving a public and open Internet, sure it’s nice to see the FCC oft-stalled Net Neutrality plan finally get its legs back under it, and sure it’s nice to think that the price gouging our American neighbours have endured at the hands of Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile may actually come to an end, or at least a middle, but things in this story aren’t as rosy as they may seem.

Public vs Private Internet

In fact, if the FCC does accept or even entertain the Google/Verizon Net Neutrality proposal, things could change quite drastically for American Internet users. Sure public Internet will be so cheap that every house in America can afford to connect itself to the information superhighway, but with the private Internet sphere hogging most of the bandwidth and all of the attention, users will soon find that the information superhighway is more like an information country back road…on Sunday afternoon.

If America doesn’t like the idea of a two-tiered public health system, it’s certainly not going to like a two-tiered Internet system.

Why No Wireless?

I actually already know the answer to this question, but doesn’t it seem a little suspicious that the wireless mobile world was left out of a proposal for open and accessible Internet?

Of course this move makes sense for Google. On the public Internet Google makes its money off advertising, meaning that more public access means more money. In the mobile world Google is far more diversified, acting as an operating system manufacturer, smartphone designer, and, until recently, a mobile distributor.  If anyone thought that Google and Verizon acting selflessly to create a usable Net Neutrality standard, well, you were dreaming.

What is “Lawful” Content?

As I gave the Google/Verizon proposal a quick read over, the phrase “would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawfulInternet content,” immediately grabbed my attention. Since this whole debacle started as a legal debate between the FCC and Comcast over the throttling of unlawful peer-to-peer websites, it looks suspiciously like this proposal has done little to help quell the fears of the FCC and the American public.

In fact, the closer one looks at this proposal, the more one realizes that it gets us nowhere. It doesn’t advance the cause of Net Neutrality, it doesn’t help regulate the wireless world, and it will most likely only serve to provide the average American with really poor Internet. So while it’s nice to see religion championing the cause of open Internet, let’s pray something better comes along.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Michael McNamara August 12, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Hi Jeff,

It’s always fun and rewarding to read your articles.

I agree with your view but was the showdown between the FCC and Comcast really over “unlawful” peer-to-peer communications? If memory serves me Comcast was guilty of impeding all peer-to-peer connections regardless of content, source or destination. It certainly could be argued that some percentage of that communications was probably unlawful in that users are still today sharing music, movies, software, etc over P2P networks.

It’s my opinion (and there’s no rocket science involved here) that the big telecommunication companies are pushing for additional revenue streams now that this Internet thing has taken off. I’m happy to see that some of the folks at the FCC are actually taking a stand against the big telecom monopolies.

Cheers!

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