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Against net neutrality

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memenode's picture
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Considering that I am a voluntaryist (or for the newbies to the term; a left libertarian, or anarcho-capitalist) I am by default against any and all legislation. Still it's good to offer arguments behind why is a particular legislation bad and I've found an article which explains why would the net neutrality regulation be bad:

The Great Firewall of Net Neutrality.

For a long time as I've been maintaining this site I've been a supporter of net neutrality and I used to say that even though I didn't particularly like government regulation, there are exceptions where it is truly needed to prevent the greedy capitalists to go wild. The biggest scare was that ISP's would end up slowing down or even blocking access to certain sites while speeding up access to others and to top it all, that this may depend on which site pays how much. So the concern was that rich site owners could secure better access while poor sites (like Libervis.com even..) would be left in cold. And this seemed to go against free competition and level playing ground that we're used to on the internet.

A pretty loud argument, but from my new perspective I have to doubt its validity for a few reasons. First, why didn't ISP's start doing this long ago? What was stopping them? We've got the internet for a couple of decades now at least and widespread broadband for almost a decade and we still didn't see significant (or any?) number of ISP's prioritize specific sites or block others (especially based on this "bribe" style payment by those who would be prioritized). There was no law anywhere that said they shouldn't do that, yet they didn't. Couldn't the reason be that it was, after all, a bad business idea?

Another argument is what was largely presented in the article, all of the consequences of banning ISP's from prioritizing traffic, where such prioritization would actually be mostly beneficial.

That said, what I do support and always will support, is campaigning against particular practices of our ISPs. I support people telling their ISP's that they shouldn't start blocking sites under the threat of switching to another ISP and causing a whole lot of bad reputation. I don't, however, support people lobbying the government to force this "good behavior" on ISP's who own their lines.

What do you think?

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dwhs's picture
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if its not broke dont fix

if its not broke dont fix it, leave the internet alone is what I say

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memenode's picture
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Exactly. Welcome aboard

Exactly. Smiling

Welcome aboard btw.

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That it ain't broke doesn't

That it ain't broke doesn't mean it won't ever break.

There's a crucial distinction to be made between the examples given by Tim Swanson and the Internet. Football stadium seats, airplane seats, and mail packages are all non-sharable, indivisible material things. Information is different. Information, the "trade of symbolic tokens" as Eben Moglen puts it, is what characterizes human beings. It's what has got us fighting for centuries - the freedom of expression, freedom to learn, read and write, exchange ideas in liberty.

I don't care much what conditions my ability to fly from A to B, to send Bob a sample of my home-made marmalade, or who gets to sit where in the stadium. That's business, trade, offer and demand; all pretty common-place and without much impact. I do care, however, what affects the text I can find, read, who can read mine. This is important enough that I have devoted the last two years of my life participating in making this digital era blossom.

Sanson goes on to assert that "the Internet is not a public utility", and I care to disagree. (in fact, somebody else, arguably the greatest player of the last 5 years in enabling free human communication, also does).

There's no doubt that there could be advantages to privatizing the network -Sanson gives a few. The question is, do they outweigh the benefits? It could be that having two competing railways between A and B have benefits, or that some big fire could have been extinguished had there be several competing fire departments. But we only need one railway system. We only need one fire department, who serves all houses equally. We only need one copper wire system to link my house to yours. Having these things "public", in the true sense of the word, does not make much sense for corporations. But it makes sense for humans, even at the cost of better business.

In fact, the last time we tried privatizing a network, we failed. Today, in my country, we have a superb mobile phone networks that sucks because it's not neutral. The marginal cost of one call is almost negligible, but fees vary according to whom I'm calling (not where they are, but which operator they use). This may have helped developed the network faster, but it's enormously frustrating. I'm not saying it should be costless (or even cheaper), but that we should all have equal status in there. We don't: it doesn't make much sense business-wise.

The bottom line is, I don't trust corporations very much. Now that the ISP industries are also big media producers, TV broadcasters, music record publishers, I see no reason for them to feel satisfied about where they are.

I also distrust Governments, tax-funding, state monopolies, and democracy in general. Nevertheless, some aspects are positive. We are not even talking about Government control here - merely about enforcing neutrality.

memenode's picture
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ariadacapo
ariadacapo wrote:

Information is different.

True, but information is not what's in question here. It's the network infrastructure that is the property of a given company. Just as you have the right to control how you use your computer so does an owner of an ISP infrastructure have the right to control that. If you would deny that you'd deny property rights in general and thus can't expect your own property right to be respected in turn.

Net neutrality regulation would however do just that, like most other government regulations.

You mention flying. Same thing. Just as you have the right to drive your own car when and where you see fit so do airline companies have the right to control where and when do their airplanes fly and what conditions they have for you riding in them.

The whole Free Software movement is about property rights. How can we sometimes cheer them and other times deny them?

ariadacapo wrote:

The question is, do they outweigh the benefits?

Who is to decide what are the benefits and what aren't? What may be beneficial to you might be less beneficial to me. I no longer adopt the thinking that involves me deciding what constitutes the good for other people or other people deciding what is good for me. When this is understood, the only thing left are individuals and their liberty and property - you can't expect to violate those and then expect your own liberty and property not to be violated. The current popular system of making these kinds of decisions for other people is "democracy", and as far as I am concered it is failing terribly. It can't not to fail. You can't decide other people's fate instead of themselves. Everyone should have the freedom to lead their own life 100% (to which liberty and property are integral).

Net-neutrality issue really comes down to a question of convenience, not so much as freedom. One is yet to prove how his freedom is affected by someone deciding to impose different kinds of conditions on the use of their property than you're commonly used to.

You have the power to voice your opinion and oppose and boycott any ISP which does what you don't feel is the good thing to do, but I cannot support you nor anyone else forcing them to obey you by the means of government. I would likely stand by you 100% on specific issues, say if a particular ISP starts speeding up traffic to certain sites just because they paid them more. I think it's a heinous thing to do, but I also recognize that it is their infrastructure and that if I were to expect my property rights to be respected I have to respect theirs. I can join you in campaigning against them and do everything in my power to persuade them not to do that, and also arouse a significant amount of market incentive that will make them reconsider, but I will never run to the government to save the day because I don't believe in coercion and violence. Only market means count.

ariadacapo wrote:

The bottom line is, I don't trust corporations very much. Now that the ISP industries are also big media producers, TV broadcasters, music record publishers, I see no reason for them to feel satisfied about where they are.

Corporations tend to be corrupt because they are in reality just legal constructs designed to shield the real capitalists from their personal responsibility. The problem here is government. They shouldn't do that. Limited Liability should never be offered if you expect people to act responsibly and ethically. It just makes them get away with acting otherwise.

That said, regardless of this liability shield, even corporations are still largely answerable to the market, as crippled and unfree as it really is, meaning that the reason for them not to do what you fear them to do is YOU and people like you and your money! But by making the net neutrality movement into a lobbying effort for using the government against these companies you're using the stick instead of the carrot.

I don't support that. It ALWAYS comes around to beating us as well.

ariadacapo wrote:

Nevertheless, some aspects are positive. We are not even talking about Government control here - merely about enforcing neutrality.

And who is enforcing neutrality if not the government? No, you are talking government control here, only the kind which appeals to you. But again, I don't believe in violence and hence I don't believe in arbitrary enforcement of arbitrary rules (and a certain percentage of the population formally voting for one or the other set doesn't make it any less arbitrary).

Say there's an island with 10 inhabitants which moved there with solar panels and computers and one of them had a satellite link and access to the whole internet, while others didn't, so he offered other 9 people to connect to the internet through his computer and allowed them to access any site. Then one day he decides to speed up traffic to one set of sites (say HD video sites) and slow it down for others, and others protested.

They could do two things. They could gang together and go threaten to beat up the guy or drag him to a cave if he doesn't comply or they could try and persuade him to stop this kind of business or work to make their own computers able to connect to that satellite and establish a competing "ISP".

Net neutrality as a regulation is the former (violently forcing the island's ISP guy to comply to the wishes of the other 9) and the latter is what every liberty loving human should do. If some of the other 9 people chose to use violence instead they basically gave up their own right not to be beaten or dragged into a cave once they do something the others disapprove off. So you see how this support for solving problems through government leads to everyone having less freedom.

I hope you consider that. Thank you.

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Hi, thanks for the

Hi, thanks for the interesting response.

I see your point very well, I believe; you reject use of Government at the cost of some neutrality; I cling to neutrality at the cost of some Government use. I don't intend to change one maturing and reflected anarchist's mind =) I myself am despising Government more and more, and in particular democracy.

I will not answer everything in your post, but instead focus on the last 10-people-island example you gave. I think it's an excellent one.

Whichever way these ten people are organized (even iron-cast anti-everything anarchists), they will find a common set of values, a "code of conduct" that will show through language and culture. It will likely contain things like it's wrong to abuse children and hair color is no criteria to judge a man. Even without a formal organization there will be a set of fundamental values that run that group.

All (or just many?) governments stem from a desire to apply these values to our daily lives precisely. Governments fail horribly along the way, of course, and they change their minds all the time about how to proceed. But the values are there (usually formulated as the Declaration of Human Rights) and they never change at all. Left-wing or right-wing or green parties come and go, changing the economy and all the rules -- but the fundamental ethics code (which says nothing about money or houses) won't vary a bit.

I hold it to be self-evident that sharing of knowledge is a fundamental, inalienable ethics "pillar". From it depend the freedoms of thought, of opinion, and of expression. I am not prepared to discuss, or compromise about this. It does not appear to me that this is something that can be changed by a government.

So, coming back to that ISP person. He may be charging an arm and a leg for a minute of networking and I won't care (much). He might be requesting that customers dance up and down on one leg just to be able to ride on his airplane - fair enough. As you write, this is his infrastructure.

But, whether or not there is any form of government or law in place, if he starts to only allow white people to use the network, or if he starts to let only left-wing websites go through his filter, that is wrong. It's wrong in 2008, in 1968, on the island and on the continent, and a majority's vote or any kind of organization's decision won't affect that. In that sense, that ISP person might have legal powers (it's his infrastructure) but it does not grant him moral rights over what passes on his infrastructure.

[I think we will agree so far. I just wanted to point out that a Government enforcing fundamental rights doesn't mean it gets to decide what these rights are].

So now we are left with what to do over that immoral ISP.

Government enforcement (through violence and threat) is not a good thing, but I also distrust your alternative. Talking about carrot and stick dynamics supposes that we have either. Things are not this simple when our island ISP is also the one who owns the local phone network, local disc record shop, and also the one who launched the satellite.

In particular, I am very doubtful about the idea that "Only market means count". I tried to show above that it does not always play that way. It makes business sense to be racist while picking customers. It makes business sense to hire children, and to experiment on animals. When our corporations are not doing it - have no doubt, it's because the government is in the way, and they run off abroad where governments are not this picky. Our money does not have this much weight in the end.

When me mention ISPs we are not talking about mom & pop's houses anymore. These are the coldest, richest machines on earth: multi-national corporations. You can't jail a corporation. You can't break its mind, its dreams or its emotions (it has none).

And in this case, we are not handing over the servers over to the government. It's simply a matter of a legal fine & fee system imposed onto legal artefacts (corporations). I'd rather pick that option, than try to level things with my euros (I have none).

Thank you for your attention
respectfully,

Olivier.

memenode's picture
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Thank you for your response

Thank you for your response as well. Unfortunately, I think we disagree far more than you thought. Very Happy

This turned out to be a rather large post as I tried to really explain where I'm coming from so take your time if you're interested in reading or replying whenever you are comfortable. If not, it's all fine. Smiling

Quote:

you reject use of Government at the cost of some neutrality

Not really, I just see a much more fundamental "neutrality" in question - a true equality in freedom, where every single human being has the right to his life, liberty and property as one and the same. By living he is able to act. To act he needs liberty. And by acting he attains his property. Deny any of these three elements and the person is no longer complete; his human right is violated.

Government is, in a nutshell, a business of selling law, order, justice, protection and depending on a country a breadth of other products and services (such as healthcare). What sets it apart from other business organizations is that it is a coercive monopoly; it denies everyone else, by force, the right to compete in offering these products and services. It does business by force rather than by incentive. People are coerced to comply, instead of being let free to choose voluntarily. That is what I see as fundamentally unethical and unhuman.

Sadly, most people nowadays cannot fathom these words. They and their ancestors have been taught from the beginning that government, an archon, a ruler by force, must always exist. To suggest competition to government itself therefore causes them to frown and fear almost as if experiencing a preconditioned allergic reaction. Since I warned you of having that reaction, maybe you'll be able to avoid it and approach this point of view with less hesitation. There's nothing to fear. You wont become a crazy anarchist if you don't want to. Eye You might just find an understanding that could change your life the way it changed mine.

So back to the topic at hand.

Quote:

even iron-cast anti-everything anarchists

Contrary to what may be a popular (and often incorrect) belief anarchists aren't anti-everything, merely anti-coercion (against rule by force).

Quote:

But the values are there (usually formulated as the Declaration of Human Rights) and they never change at all.

I disagree because that assumes the kind of uniformity among different human individuals that doesn't exist. A document declaring a certain set of moral values on behalf of every living being in the country or world does not mean that every living being in the country or world really shares these values personally. There is no such thing as universal morals - a rock is just a rock, gravity is such as it is. There is nothing about it that could make it "right" or "wrong". These are the valuations that human beings assign to things and processes (actions). However, it can hardly be denied that human beings are different from each other to the point of assigning different valuations to different things and actions, thus having different moral codes. When there is a common set of morals among people that's merely a consensus, but it does not have nor should be enforced. It comes about naturally.

If you accept the definition of freedom as essentially "whatever floats your boat so long as it doesn't sink mine" then you can hardly be in favor of coercion or initiated force - forcing one's moral code on another. You can influence him and strive to incentivize him to accept your view, but to force it upon him would be to sink his boat. Him being who he is does not deny you the right to be who you are, so long as neither of you initiate force against each other.

Because, how does it harm you or anyone else if someone does what you think is immoral? He apparently doesn't think it's immoral so he does it, but he doesn't force you or anyone else to watch, think about it, nor participate. Why would there be a forced law that prevents him from doing this "terrible immoral thing"? It's his body, his property and his life.

Quote:

I hold it to be self-evident that sharing of knowledge is a fundamental, inalienable ethics "pillar".

This right is derived from the right to "float your boat so long as it doesn't sink somebody elses". The right to share knowledge, the right to not release knowledge from your mind, the right to create something or destroy something you own or use something you own, the right to walk here or run there, the right to do something with someone who agrees to do it with you, the right to refuse when someone asks you to do something etc. - these are all rights just as much as the right you describe and it does come from a pillar: liberty - freedom to be who you are, to do ANYTHING so long as it doesn't force anything on another.

So, again, the issue is not that about sharing information, but about life,liberty and property (the three are inseparable; lack of one causes harm to the other).

Quote:

But, whether or not there is any form of government or law in place, if he starts to only allow white people to use the network, or if he starts to let only left-wing websites go through his filter, that is wrong.

That is what you think is wrong and even if 90% of all people in the world agreed with you, including me, it will never in my view be right for us to force that guy to let white people access or let right-wing websites through. I can't emphasize this enough. It is his property. Forcing him to use it in a particular way or not use it in a particular way harms his liberty and thus his right to live as who he is and wants to be, no matter how disgusting you and me find it to be. If you do force him then you waive your own right to liberty and property as well. I don't care how much of the world's laws, statues, books and people stand on your side, you've made a violation of another person.

You can instead try to incentivize him to do otherwise or compete with him.

Quote:

I think we will agree so far.

Obviously, you miscalculated that one. Laughing

Quote:

Things are not this simple when our island ISP is also the one who owns the local phone network, local disc record shop, and also the one who launched the satellite.

So you're describing a monopoly in multiple areas. How does a monopoly cease to be a monopoly? Compete! Not enough money or resources? Well, band together with like minded people, pool the resources and do it! Too lazy? Well.. get off your arse. Eye The thing is, none of these options are any harder than trying to pass a net neutrality law. And yes, that's a carrot approach.

Now if you'll say that the existing players use the government to stay in power and prevent competition so even if you've had enough supporters to fund your competing startup and then buy your competing service you would have to jump through hoops or be outright illegal - well.. isn't it pretty clear by now that this is a government created problem in the first place? That is why I wrote in my last post about corporations being legal entities of irresponsibility protected by government.

Does that make it OK to then use government against itself by pushing a net neutrality law? Absolutely not. By doing so you are in the long term contributing to the problem. You might in the short term supposedly resolve the "neutrality" issue you seek, just to find that the new power you gave the government endangers something much more fundamental. What then? You expanded government power and thus made yourself even more incapable to just compete - and so we begin to fall down the spiral.

So why not go back to the market option? Perhaps there is a way after all, if all this effort spent on legislating was spent on developing or supporting competition. Digital technology and computer related markets are particularly vibrant these days. Even if you can't use standard phone lines, why not consider wimax, wifi, UMTS, fiber optics.. any way to escape a monopoly and compete with it. Whichever you go, if the result is bypassing the restrictions of the corporation in question you're on the right track, and you might even find that if your competition becomes strong enough, the corporation in question might reconsider its ways - and your mission would be accomplished without use of force, without increasing government bloat!.

Quote:

And in this case, we are not handing over the servers over to the government. It's simply a matter of a legal fine & fee system imposed onto legal artefacts (corporations).

"Legal" is just another word for "government sanctioned" and imposing any sort of a punishment on someone's right to use his property in a particular way is denying their property right in a whole. "You're free only if you comply with my rules" isn't giving freedom. "It's yours only if you use it under my conditions" isn't property.

And yes, those are legal artefacts, but the effect is still the same since the people hiding behind these imaginative entities are still real people and even though their ownership goes through these legal artefacts, if you remove them it's essentially their property. I in no way condone corporatism (limited liability), but since the people behind these corporations didn't force their buyers to buy from them and thus bring them to the point of becoming a corporation they are, I can't deny their property as theirs. If however they did force (by being the government backed monopoly) then they are essentially just a subset of government itself. Even then though, passing a net neutrality law wouldn't only make them act differently, but would force any future would be competitiors from using their fairly attributed property as they see fit.

Thank you for reading. Smiling

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dwhs's picture
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Thanks, I see the points

Thanks, I see the points here but really as people we have to just assume allot. Most all policy is made behind closed doors. At least as a business if a company for example like AOL did and blocks the internet and email they will get a bad rep like AOL has now and lose money. But the government has nothing to lose, and it only take some self righteous ignorant person with the right clout to ruin a great venue for community, entertainment, business, and learning just because of a couple issues. I really think the government needs to stay out of the internet with the exception of crime.

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chaze
www.dwhs.net
www.charlesyarbrough.com

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