It All Hinges on Net Neutrality: “Here the Hammer-Stroke Will Fall the Hardest”

The debate over Net Neutrality (the principle that data traveling on telecom pipes is equal no matter if it comes from my blog or has reared its head a couple of times in the past few years.  I keep (naively) hoping that the issue has settled itself, but deep down I know better.  These skirmishes are just prologue to the coming armageddon (which I imagine will look something like the final act of “Return of the King” – complete with hordes of Urak-hai, Oliphaunts, and ghost armies).

This quote from Jeff Jarvis (taken from a recent podcast on Radio Leo at 23:00: “This Week in Google 16”) reignited my nagging worries:

“I wrote a post last week arguing that the future of news is entrepreneurial, not institutional.  I don’t think that the institutions can see the world this new way.  I’ve finally given up.  I’ve tried for fifteen years, personally.  It’s too painful to shrink down to the appropriate size for a web business, and a member of a network rather than the owner of everything.  And I think it’s a shame, and a lot of people are going to suffer along the way – they already are – but that’s the new reality.”

Jarvis is spot on, and that’s the worry.  Most corporations (particularly the largest ones) aren’t going to quietly accept the new role that the Netflix-ed,, Twitter-ed, Ebay-ing, Google-ized, Facebook-ed, hot, flat, crowded, web 2.0, global world will have for them.  So they’re going to do their best to destroy that world – and destroying that world requires eliminating Net Neutrality.

Eliminate Net Neutrality, and the Internet becomes just another channel through which the wealthiest can hold sway based on the depth of their coffers (too frequently a stark contrast to the merit of their ideas).

Their first efforts to kill Net Neutrality have been laughably ham-fisted, but they’re invariably learning from their mistakes.  Like the raptors in Jurassic Park, they will refine their methods accordingly.  My only source of optimism is that this won’t be the one-sided beating that ensued when the film/record oligopolies decided to kick over Napster to destroy file-sharing.  This time they’ll be taking on Google and its armies of highly-contented users.

Given how much of congress is owned by the anti-Net Neutrality corporate interests, my bet is they’ll start there.  In fact, they already have.  One can easily envision them arguing (through their proxies) that Google is a monopoly and that, as such, Net Neutrality must be eliminated because it’s ‘too democratic’ and it’s ‘destroying the free market’.  In fact, some morons are already laying the intellectual groundwork for this case.

Don’t be surprised if they try to paint Google as some sort of bearded, communistic, anti-American plot against apple pie and your baby sister (if you think I’m kidding, you haven’t been reading far-right message board chatter – “of course they’re communiss! – two of the letters in their logo are RED!”).  In today’s political climate, an argument doesn’t have to hold water or make sense – it just has to have the right imagery and use the coded keywords that incense segments of the population.  In the meantime I still have a few Google Wave invites if anyone wants them.

“The Eye of Sauron now turns to Gondor, the last free kingdom of men.  His war on this country will come swiftly.”

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