August 2, 2010

Net Neutrality: Battle Lines

Filed under: Internet Democracy — Tags: , , — Russ @ 1:52 am


We often see the disparagement of the freedom ideology, for example from those who rail only against “the government” but somehow always neglect to mention the corporations. It’s always governmental jack-booted thugs but never corporate jack-booted thugs.  Who do they think runs the government? If pressed, they may say something like “Wall Street”, but they usually mean some vague shadowy black-helicopter cabal whose intentions are vague but malevolent. 
But to clearly recognize that the banksters do run the government, the banksters are the core drivers of tyranny, the banksters are doing it all for their personal power and “profit”, the big banks are simply organized crime rackets, and that the same is true across all sectors which are also racketeering oligopolies, that it’s all organized crime, and that the one and only way to defeat tyranny and restore morality, justice and freedom is to smash the rackets, eradicate the corporations in legality and reality, and that fighting the government is to be valued as a strategy for fighting the corporations, not as the goal in itself, to recognize all this seems beyond them.
So there’s the problem with the proposition that true citizen activists, who of necessity must be anti-corporate activists, can find real common ground with the tea partiers and so on. At best, they seem inclined to focus only on the puppet and not on the puppet master. Many of them are actually agents of the puppet-master. For example, as soon as Rand Paul won the primary he wasted no time rushing to a podium to declare “I’m in the bag for BP!”
One critical theater of the general struggle is the net neutrality fight. The two great policy threats to the Internet are corporate strangleholds and government censorship. Both are threats, but the corporate threat is far worse at this time. If we lose net neutrality, so that smaller, decentralized information providers can’t be heard in the first place because they’ve been definitively economically censored, then what difference would de jure government censorship make after that?
So we have the specter of primary censorship, economic, structural, corporate-imposed censorship; and that of secondary censorship, censorship of content imposed by the government (corporations may of course undertake this kind of censorship as well, and have often already done so). This division of the primary corporate socioeconomic tyranny and the secondary governmental “regulatory” tyranny can be performed for most or all other sectors and issues as well.
So today the real front line for the battle of freedom vs. tyranny is always the primary anti-racket line. For the preservation of Internet democracy, the real front line is the preservation of net neutrality. And here, as everywhere else, the real enemy, the puppeteer, tries to distract attention from himself to the government puppet. Net neutrality is under assault by a propaganda campaign trying to depict the fight against economic censorship as being a fight for government censorship. This is the standard fraud: “Don’t look at me, the puppet master; look at the puppet, and interpret his motions according to how I tell you to interpret them.” Of course FCC enshrinement of net neutrality would be a pure anti-censorship measure. The only ones seeking any censorship at all here are the rackets. Economic censorship is the truly pervasive, insidious censorship. Government content censorship is a side issue for now. If any tea party type tries to argue otherwise, just respond: Why obsess on the puppet? What about the puppet master?
(Here I’m trying to express some conceptual ideas. But I recognize that this use of terminology may be politically fraught. If “censorship” is the astroturf buzz word, trying to redefine it might not work in the political short run but just backfire, since we know that most people are likely to vaguely register terms like “censorship” and “FCC” and continue to associate them even if the argument just proved the opposite.
So I’ll continue to think about the political words that work, and welcome any suggestions. Unfortunately we don’t have much time, since the fight is likely to climax this autumn.)
So here’s the real deal with net neutrality, the scam being concocted behind closed doors. It looks like we’re in for a replay of the health racket debacle.
After all the talk about seeking a “third way” between the existing Title I information service classification and fully reclassifying Internet providers as Title II communications service providers, the FCC has been holding closed door meetings with the telecom rackets and some of the biggest information providers. Big info providers like Google and Yahoo have hitherto advocated net neutrality enshrinement. It looks like the plot here is to buy off the biggest information providers so they drop their opposition, pull up the ladder behind them, and abandon all their smaller brethren. After all, does Google (which would never have achieved success without net neutrality) really want net neutrality to help small potential competitors? A sellout here would be in accord with its increasingly oligopolist behavior.
Meanwhile, in that health racket replay I just mentioned, a sham “net neutrality” concept is being fabricated to supercede the real version in all official propaganda. There are two versions of overthrowing the substance of net neutrality while trying to keep the name. The more brazen is “paid prioritization”, letting the telecom rackets like AT&T, Time Warner, Comcast etc. favor their own related conglomerate content, and getting the likes of Google to go along by giving them a rate. This is in fact not even sham net neutrality but the simple destruction of it. That they would even try to call this a version of  “net neutrality” should surely receive an Orwell Prize.
Perhaps more insidious, because it may sound quasi-reasonable, is the “managed services” scam. This would purport to leave the existing pipes net neutral, while letting the telecoms construct additional VIP pipes where they could then prioritize transmission based on payment of tolls. So we’d have an Internet version of Plessy vs. Ferguson, “separate but equal”, the neutral net and the discrimination net.
In practice, though, this would work as well and embody as much justice as did the original separate-but-equal. This is because we know exactly how it would work:
1. Picture people having to line up for an essential service. (And by now Internet access and information transfer has become a social and economic necessity almost as much as driving; and just as with driving the system has aggressively engineered itself this way, from the top down. So no one has any right to tell the individual he must fend completely for himself. If the system conscripts us, it has to do all it can to accomodate us and help us be functional. This is true of the Internet just as it’s true of every other realm of social and/or economic engineering. The Internet is an economic and democratic imperative by now.)
2. Picture three lanes where everyone is charged the same and the lines usually move smoothly enough. And if things get congested, they can easily put in a 4th lane (and 5th and 6th etc.), just as they put in the 2nd and 3rd.
3. Instead, they put in the 4th lane but call it the “managed service” lane, charge extra for it, and move most of their personnel and resources to providing luxury service for it. Now that lane moves super-fast, while service cuts reduce the original three lanes to hideous congestion and otherwise poor service.
4. They could just as easily have put in the 4th lane, increased servicing proportionally and kept service spread equally among all 4 lanes. In that case everything would work well for everyone, except for the parasites who want to extract unproductive rents.
5. Instead everything’s being destroyed, for no reason at all other than that the telecom racketeers who did no work, who innovated nothing, who produce nothing, who make everything less productive, less efficient, can extract more tolls from the pipes the people built and paid for.
6. It’s anti-public interest, anti-capitalist, anti-democratic, and most of all anti-American.
So that’s what we’re in for if we let either the racketeers and their Congressional prostitutes crush the FCC’s attempt to enshrine net neutrality, or if we let the FCC cave in on its own, as it has from time to time looked ready to do.
I don’t like the notion of having to vest expectations of reform in an existing government agency. That’s precisely what we generally consider pointless and counterproductive. But as I’ve written earlier, I don’t see any alternative for this particular fight. The Internet and its democracy are technologically dependent upon the system, and therefore politically dependent. (I have started looking around for possible ways to go “off-grid” with the Internet itself, and I sometimes read stuff like this, but not being a tech guy I’m not sure how possible it is or even if it’s talking about the same thing I’m thinking of.)
The reason net neutrality may possibly be an exception to the general rule that Regulation Can’t Work is that the average consumer has become so used to relatively fast service at his whim that the people may refuse to tolerate being ghettoized online the way they’re tolerating their economic liquidation in most other ways. Surely the basic functioning of the economy is so dependent upon efficient online transmission that it would be intolerable for the rackets to set up their tollbooths everywhere? Or maybe that’s being absurdly optimistic.
At any rate, we cannot be complacent about the posterity of Internet democracy. It’s extremely vulnerable to both economic and political censorship. So as ridiculous as it may sound to most or all who read this, we should really think about reviving physical printing presses and physical distribution networks for political communication. That should already be on the Peak Oil preparation list (the grid is also physically vulnerable to increasing disruption during energy descent), and should be a priority for any vision of a self-reliant, system-independent political movement.


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