Save The Internet. Why? And For Whom?

Net activists have launched a Save the Internet campaign, hoping to build a grass roots groundswell in order to maintain the status quo over network neutrality.

You can read about the reasons in great detail here or simply watch a two minute video here to get a sense of why network neutrality effects everyone.

I admire the work being done by the activists, but I have some what will be unpopular observations. For instance, the campaign has a very US centric view of the Internet, especially at a time when the global Internet is becoming bigger and bigger. Shouldn’t the campaign be, Save The US Internet – after all most of the problems are very US centric.


While the campaign tries to reach out to Joe & Jane Citizen, the leading web companies are not taking the issue seriously. In reality they should be reaching out to Silicon Valley. Everytime I have a chat with folks in the Valley, there seems to be little awareness of this issue.

Similarly, the start-ups that are most likely to affected seem to be in the dark as well. Niall and I have discussed this time and again in our pod sessions. And its the big web companies who have to step up and state their position on this issue, and not just pay lip service.

Word from sources in Congress say that the major companies arguing for network neutrality have failed so far to demonstrate they are seriously committed to seeing legislation passed. While the CEO’s from the Bell companies, we were told, glad-handed members of Congress, leading online companies have been largely MIA. [ from Jeff Chester’s Democratic Media]

These companies are fighting a battle against highly organized phone companies, who use their immense knowledge of legislative procedure as a competitive strategy. The real innovation, for oligopolies is lobbying. The big web companies it seems are busy fighting the petty battles, when they stand to lose the war.

I cannot but agree with Jeff Chester, the author of this essay:

“Yahoo! and Microsoft also have deals with many of the phone and cable companies. They and other online giants will need favorable access to their broadband lines, network neutrality or not. Perhaps it’s concern over their business relationships that have contributed to their political timidity.”

One can argue that they are doing right by their shareholders, just like the phone and cable companies. And they should, after all that is capitalism 101. Given that they have a big cash hoard, maybe vanishing network neutrality would also help get rid of competition.

Any even as your listen to the messages from the net activists, it would also be wise to pay heed to words of former FCC chairman Michael Powell.

It is too facile to say the Internet belongs to the public. People are married to the metaphor of the public space, but they run into trouble when it comes to who should pay for this stuff. They think it should be the government. That’s not going to happen. The government is broke, It’s going to stay broke.

What do you folks think?

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