Does Net Neutrality Truly Exist?

There are a number of issues surrounding net neutrality (See Tom and Steve‘s articles). While governments can legislate and attempt to control the Internet, we as users, whether parents, teachers, preachers, or children, already practice forms of anti–net neutrality. We do that by using specific services. Those services could be political, religious, financial, games, or other things. Parents, as a matter of course, tend to make decisions about their children’s viewing habits, and businesses make choices regarding their employees in-office network availability. This happens every day. So, how do we craft our own net neutrality? What does net neutrality truly mean?

Net neutrality has been about allowing unfettered access to any and all parts of the Internet. Yet, we have many cases of such access violating decency-related and other laws. As such, those laws imply bounds upon the Internet. The only way around those was for Internet service providers to be classified as common carriers. This itself took many years to happen in the earlier days of the Internet. Many mom-and-pop style ISPs folded during that time frame. If the Internet were truly neutral, this would not have mattered. However, it does. We have laws to protect inhabitants. The laws of the United States are not the only laws that apply. They only apply within the bounds of the United States. This is the same for China and other countries.

These laws govern much of what can be viewed or what people can attempt to view when using the Internet. They often come from parents who wish to protect their children. Raise your hands, fellow parents, if you limit your children’s access to television, movies, or the Internet. Ah, I see most of you did raise your hands. Yes, I do as well. This implies we are not neutral about the Internet with regard to our own children. We know it is unsafe for our children; therefore, as responsible adults, we limit their access.

However, we get upset when ISPs and governments attempt to do the same thing with regard to adults. They are not our parents—what right do they have to limit our access to the Internet or sell it to the highest bidder, or even to gather metadata about our visits and sell that to the highest bidder? From a business perspective, the goal is to make more money while providing a service. If you want the ISP to provide neutral access for whatever you wish to view, then insist on that sort of plan. Or better yet, craft your own net neutrality.

Neutrality will mean different things to different people. Humans are bounded by their own upbringing and teachings. What one would consider blasphemous, another will consider a not-so-well-thought-out argument, and others will embrace. Humans are just not neutral entities unto themselves. To be truly neutral, one must accept everything as it is, and allow viewing of things one may not personally like. This is just like freedom of speech. You may say anything you like and, at the same time, accept that the person standing next to you may be saying the complete opposite at the top of their lungs while they compete for the same airwaves.

To which do you listen? Both, neither, all? Your choices provide the path to create your own Internet and freedom of speech filters and viewpoints. As people, we are just not neutral. To be neutral implies “let everything through, accept it all.” However, there are some things we cannot accept, that we do not like, that we filter out of the stream.

Net neutrality starts at home. If we cannot start there, then why should we expect businesses to do the same? So, if you want to have your own net neutrality, you must first find ISPs that will treat everyone the same—that just sell bandwidth, but only one plan. I.e., everyone gets the same thing. It must be neutral, after all. Then, among those ISPs, find one that gives unfettered, unfiltered access to everywhere on the Internet. Yes, that includes those sites you may find personally distasteful. In addition, you should sign a waiver that you are going to indemnify the carrier from any potential harm. Then, find a device to view videos and the like that is region free. Yes, region controls come into play. Also, find a way to ensure the ISP has no unencrypted view of your personal metadata.

As you can see, net neutrality really does not exist today. There are many plans from which to choose. To abide by net neutrality laws, all an ISP has to do is offer a connection not optimized for any given service. If enough people clamor for that type of service, the ISP will abide by its customers.

We must remember, net neutrality is NOT privacy: it is about delivering service. With most of the modern Internet being used to deliver video, social media, and shopping, should not the ISPs be allowed to optimize for their customers’ use cases?


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