Are You Part of the Church of Extreme Net Neutrality? AT&T Hopes Not

by Matt Klassen on September 2, 2010

The Church of Extreme Net Neutrality would like you to have faith; to believe in the teachings of old that an open and accessible regulated Internet is good for everyone, and that paid prioritization of Internet services is quite possibly the deadliest of the technological sins. But now, my dear brothers and sisters, its time to wake up from your slumber, to start thinking for yourselves, and to see that, as AT&T seems to think, stringent Net Neutrality standards (and religion) are bad for everybody.  

Earlier this week AT&T Vice President Hank Hultquist posted a religiously-themed entry on the company’s Public Policy blog that has many in the telecom world scratching their heads. The post, you see, is a scathing rebuke of the proposed Net Neutrality standards, the push towards governmental regulation of your Internet service; but it’s so cloaked in AT&T’s own unique brand of garbled dogma, fear-mongering and overtly negative religious themes that it’s hard to make out his point.  

So what is Hultquist so worried about? He’s concerned that banning paid prioritization of Internet services would be “harmful and contrary to the fundamental principles of the Internet.” Further, he’s scared that pro Net Neutrality groups are brainwashing you, much like religion brainwashes billions of people around the world.

Wait a minute, that couldn’t really be his point, could it?

This whole Net Neutrality debate resurfaced earlier this summer when Google and Verizon attempted to develop some sort of joint workable solution to the ongoing Open Internet controversy. One of the key points of the proposal—one that I took objection to—was the notable distinction between private internet and public internet; a semantic division that would no doubt allow companies like Verizon and AT&T to keep prioritizing their network services—the single most central point that has been driving this debate since its inception.

It was then that the concept of “paid prioritization” became the central focus of the debate, which reached critical mass a few weeks ago when Free Press, a pro-regulatory advocacy group, submitted letters to the FCC complaining that any notion of the prioritization of Internet services contravened the very premise of Net Neutrality and was, in fact, “discriminatory,” arguing that it will “only benefit the few content giants that have deep enough pockets to pay for favorable treatment.”

AT&T’s counter-argument, buried so far beneath caustic rhetoric as to deem it almost totally incomprehensible, seems to be this: Such paid prioritization has always existed, has always been a part of the principles of the Internet, and was, it turns out, established by Federal regulators themselves in the mid ‘90s. So what’s the problem with it? Why can’t we all push for Net Neutrality standards that let everyone enjoy the status quo?

The problem, Mr. Hultquist, is that such prioritization has led to nothing but corporate greed, mismanagement of services, and a national broadband network that rivals many 3rd world countries. To me, the existence of paid prioritization is the reason people are fighting for Net Neutrality, to bring sanity to an industry that has clearly lost its mind. So what if such prioritization has always been there? It hasn’t worked so far, so why keep it around?

So if wanting an equal and open Internet makes me the newest proselyte of the Church of Extreme Net Neutrality, sign me up and give me a free Bible. I may just start going door-to-door.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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