Net Neutrality – the Why, but mostly the Why Not

Today, July 12th, I’ve received a dozen emails with subject lines like “Today we save the internet”, and “One Day to save the internet”.  And they’re still coming in: “The free and open internet is under attack.”

I assume we all know why a neutral internet is important — among other issues, we don’t want to be charged more if we choose to use one provider’s software over another.  That’s straightforward. Groups like the Electronic Freedom Foundation have long argued for just that. (Personally, I think it ought to be regulated as the utility it is.)

But there’s another issue, which hits me square in the bank account. As some readers may know, I’m a musician, a bassist, and used to earn my living as one — at times, quite a good one, actually. I wasn’t wealthy (for a Westerner), but made a decent, reliable, middle-class living.

As we know, very few of us do that anymore. And we’re caught dead in the middle of the forces that are engaged in this fight. On the one side: the evil corporations that bring us the internet — ISPs like your Comcast, for instance. On the other side, those plucky little internet crusaders like Facebook and Google. Where to come down? On the side of evil — or evil?

I have an engineer friend (in the modern sense of the term engineer) who works for Google. I really like this guy. And we’ve gone around and around on the issue, and reached a complete stalemate. He tells me to think of Google as a company with Asperger’s Syndrome. OK, I can try. Google isn’t literally at fault for my inability to earn a living, but as the owners of You Tube, they bear much of the responsibility. The fault is with the DMCA[1], you say? Fine. Perhaps it once was.

But You Tube makes an enormous amount of money — really enormous — off of its user base uploading music illegally to the site, and each one has to be chased down individually by the copyright holder. Could Google police it? They say no, impossible.

But this article  showed up on my telephone today. When they want to, they find a way.

And don’t get me started on streaming. Editor Leebens can tell you about Spotify. I can tell you that a little over a year-and-a-half ago, I was in a conference with Gale Anne Hurd, the producer of The Walking Dead. She said that as of that date, she had yet to see a penny from the sales via iTunes. Not one cent, from the sales of one of the biggest shows around.

“Creative Destruction”, you say? Great – enjoy the democracy of the internets.

[1] The Digital Millennium Copyright Act: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Millennium_Copyright_Act

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