At least six bills before Congress deal with an issue that leaves many confused and involves a lot of money, constant spin doctoring, and now Hillary Clinton. No, we’re not talking about HillaryCare redux or Whitewater, but “net neutrality,” a concept being used to trick Americans into accepting regulation of the Internet.
Supporters say net neutrality would protect consumers’ rights to surf wherever they want on the Net. That is pure spin and conceals the real purpose of net neutrality legislation: to lock broadband providers into a single business model that will make companies like Google and Yahoo richer. That’s a sweet deal for those firms, but a bad deal for consumers and the rest of America.
Recipe for Disaster
Net neutrality regulations mean price controls because the concept would disallow broadband providers like AT&T and Verizon from charging more to those who use more bandwidth. That’s a recipe for disaster because such regulations will translate into shortages of bandwidth, harming American competitiveness.
In supporting net neutrality legislation backed by Internet giants Google and Amazon.com, Hillary Clinton said, “We must embrace an open and non-discriminatory framework for the Internet of the 21st century. Any effort to fundamentally alter the inherently democratic structure of the Internet must be rejected.”
Openness is indeed an important concept and free speech is key to democracy, which has led some to question why Google has banned at least three news sources in the last few weeks that are conservative or focus on Islamic extremists.
It is ironic that at a time when Google is presumably fighting to keep the Internet “open and free,” it is censoring data — not only in China and other countries, but also in America. The New Media Journal e-zine was one of the publications that was censored by Google’s staff because employees thought the site contained hate speech.
Fight the Power
Google’s e-mail to New Media, published on the Web, said, “We received numerous reports about hate content on your site and, after reviewing these reports, decided to remove your site from Google News.” That’s a significant amount of power the company wields, which has sparked a lively discussion in conservative circles over how to deal with a powerful company run by mostly left-leaning people whose founders are chums with Al Gore.
“They banned The New Media Journal. They banned MichNews.com. They banned The Jawa Report. Google News and Google Search Engine are on a campaign of political correctness that sees them denying access to their service to any Web site — be it news, opinion or a hybrid of both — that dares to address the subject of radical Islam,” said the New Media Journal.
Given Google’s filtering of opinion, Internet activists like those at MoveOn.org — who claim to care about an open Internet — should direct their efforts toward fighting real and current blocks to a truly open Web. That’s unlikely to happen, however, as numerous sources have noted that MoveOn.org is receiving significant amounts of money from the corporation.
Do the Right Thing
Google would be wise to be careful about how far it allows its censorship to go, especially as it argues in Congress that America needs laws to ensure that people can see whatever they want on the Web. Given the facts, one wonders if Google isn’t simply asking to be regulated itself. If that’s the case, it should just be honest about it and stop trying to get a free broadband ride as a fringe benefit.
Net neutrality supporters are proposing problems that don’t exist, ignoring the ones that do, and generally confusing the American public for the benefit of a few wealthy Internet companies. That’s an unfortunate situation, but legislators can fix it by rejecting pleas to regulate the Net.
Sonia Arrison, a TechNewsWorld columnist, is director of Technology Studies at the California-based Pacific Research Institute.