Thursday, May 13, 2010

Right-wing Christians against net neutrality

Right Wing Christians Against Net Neutrality Want To Censor Your Internet:
In buying off opinion leaders to oppose net neutrality, [AT&T and other internet service providers] ended up needing to get into bed with right-wing christianists who want to censor the internet, thus trading away yet another basic aspect of what has made the internet successful. ...

It wasn’t until 2008 that the opposition to net neutrality began to be generated — as John McCain and other Republicans reversed their positions as they received large inflows of money from various broadband companies opposing net neutrality. The meme began to circulate on the right wing that net neutrality was a version of the Fairness Doctrine of the 1960s which mandated radio programs give time to opposing views when they spoke on controversial subjects. ... The Fairness Doctrine is not something that gets the blood of the average American boiling. But it does evoke a Pavlovian response among conservative activists and right-wing radio listeners. ...

[In a recent letter, Grover Norquist, Phyllis Schlafly, and other conservatives] came out in favor of censorship of the internet:
Net neutrality regulations also call into question how obscenity and other objectionable content on the Internet is treated. ... [N]et neutrality prohibits broadband service providers from ... preventing peddlers of child pornography from having unblocked access to every home Internet connection.
Net neutrality is about one and only one thing: preventing broadband service providers from using their monopoly position to collect "rent" from content providers. It's not even the point that abandoning net neutrality will affect marginal (and free) content such as this blog (although it will). Net neutrality will effectively transfer substantial profits from commercial content providers to the broadband provider, in much the same sense that the capital costs for printing and promoting books allows publishers to expropriate profit from writers*.

*Even with highly paid writers such as Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, the average return for just published writers is ridiculously low. Throw in the labor of good writers who never get published and hour-for-hour writers get screwed harder by the capitalist system than migrant farm workers.

Broadband is a "natural" monopoly, by virtue of enormously high capital costs necessary. Another effect of abandoning net neutrality will be to create a huge network effect: broadband providers will erect barriers to sharing traffic with each other. Which broadband provider an individual is connected to will dictate what content they can get at all, much less cheaply and quickly. If, for example, Revolution Magazine were available on Sprint, Sprint might not even bother to pay AT&T for the right to transmit that traffic. With antitrust laws weakening and enforcement lax, it's conceivable that just as we now have mostly single-newspaper cities, we could have single-internet-news cities: Fox News in Atlanta, MSNBC in Seattle.

None of the broadband providers have any economic incentive to support net neutrality. It's free money. They don't have to do anything, build anything, or learn anything of value to anyone else. All they have to do is stand in front of the bridge and demand a toll.

The big content providers will fight — they don't want to give away their money for nothing — but win or lose, Google, Amazon, Yahoo!, the major news outlets, etc. will still survive and make a healthy profit, so they won't fight with their lives on the line. The primary selection process will be against entry level businesses — especially providing high-bandwidth content — who will need an order of magnitude more capital just to pay AT&T to get enough bandwidth to survive.

Look for net neutrality to quickly erode over the next few years. There's no capitalist economic reason for it to survive.

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