Ken's Project Blog

March 15, 2011

Al Franken on Net Netruality

Filed under: In The News,Politics,Technology — Ken @ 10:51 pm

Sen. Al Franken, speaking at the SXSW Interactive conference, decided to chime in on the Net Neutrality “debate”:

“He said Comcast is looking to change the basic architecture of the Web by implementing a pricing scheme that allows moneyed interests to pay for faster speeds, leaving everyone else behind. That would be a particularly bad development for the independent musicians and artists gathered here, he said.” [emphasis added]

Let me see if I can explain this in simple terms, instead of “Net Neutrality” let’s consider “Car Neutrality”. Let’s say I go to the local Chevy dealer and buy a new Chevy Cruz, and I really like it – I think it’s really fast and I’m happy with the price. Then, after I get the car home, I find out that “moneyed interests” can pay more for a car than I did and get one that’s even faster. Somehow, because GM offers “faster cars” to “moneyed interests” my Cruz is now slower.

That, in a nutshell, is his Net Neutrality argument, as expressed at SXSW Interactive.

Sources: Al Franken: ‘They’re coming after the Internet’



  1. Mm, no. It’s more like Highway Neutrality. Consider the following: the highway department implements a system of high-speed road use; for a fee, I get to drive faster than you (so the speed limit for you is, say, 30, while my speed limit is 60, on the same road; furthermore, I have the right to run you off the road in order to pass you). Say, for the sake of argument, that I (being wealthy) can afford the fee, while you (being less wealthy) cannot. Do you think this will affect your ability to use the road?

    Net neutrality essentially imposes a requirement, like the one for roads, that roads, for the most part, are a public good, and anyone must be able to use them, with the same restrictions on everyone. If a road imposes a toll or speed limit, it’s the same for all users (some users, like trucks, pay more, because they use the road harder, move on; all trucks of a certain type pay the same). The internet, in the view of most liberals, ought to be a public good. Not that it ought to be free, but that it ought to be free of regulations which blatantly hurt the people least able to afford being hurt. I’m sorry, but I distrust businesses in the same way you distrust government. I really doubt that Comcast has my best interests in mind when they propose this system; they have in mind the best interests of its shareholders (most of whom are also corporations; it’s an interlocking system). Which is as it should be, but *someone* has to look out for those of us who are not shareholders due to not being wealthy corporations or individuals. I make a good living (I’m a doctor), but if my internet is swamped by football traffic when I want CSPAN, I doubt Comcast will listen to my demand for traffic neutrality in the face of the Big Moolah they make on the football. So, the only agency looking out for me, making it possible for me to be heard when I complain that my serious discourse is swamped by sweaty thugs, is the government.

    (Your mileage may vary regarding what you want. If you want football and can only get CSPAN, you have a legitimate complaint also; the point is that *all* traffic has an equal right to priority, or none does, regardless of a traffic generator’s ability to pay, just like all traffic has a right to priority on the road (or none does). You can’t pay for priority treatment on the road, and you shouldn’t be able to pay for priority treatment on the internet).

    Comment by Tom — March 20, 2011 @ 5:46 pm | Reply

    • You make some good points, but you CAN pay for priority treatment on the roads – toll roads created a private, quicker way to get from point A to point B for those that were willing to pay, same with toll bridges.

      I understand your argument about ‘preferred’ traffic pushing out other traffic, if the connections between points remain constant capacity, but I assume (yes, I know the risks of assuming ;^) that if a NetFlix or ESPN paid for preferential treatment of their data, ISPs would increase network capacity to meet those obligations, you apparently assume (implying same risks ;^) that they would not, that prefered traffic would starve non-preferred traffic.

      If, as you describe, CSPAN suffered to the point it was unusable by you, the free market would allow another ISP to step in and address your interests, a heavily regulated market limits your choices. I’d rather have competition and the choices it brings than an endless parade of corrective legislation & regulations against a state-authorized monopoly.

      Comment by Ken — March 22, 2011 @ 9:18 am | Reply

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