In the US, the "music industry" is now wading into increasingly murky net neutrality waters and is lobbying the FCC for new regulations that would "encourage" ISPs to police content consumption and penalise those deemed to be piratical. And this from the people who brought us "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus."
In a letter written with the intent of influencing the Federal Communications Commission but addressed to that Grand Panjandrum de nos jours, Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, an agglomeration of 13 loosely affiliated groups including the American Federation of Musicians, the American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers, and the National Music Publishers Association, insist that ISPs "must take measures to deter unlawful activity such as copyright infringement."
It might also have added "And we are a colossal money-making machine grown bloated on profits from a business model that is well-past its sell-by-date but to which we are determined to cling come what may. After all we're accustomed to living high on the hog and our customers are used to paying through the nose to keep us in the style that we believe is our God-given right." Strangely though, those words don't appear in the final draft.
The letter was sent in response to the joint approach by Google and the US telco Verizon proposing, in a kite-flying exercise of stupendous opportunism and cynicism, that US citizens should have "access to all legal content on the Internet". How very gracious and condescending of them.
In their proposal, Google and Verizon have also pre-figured a fast-lane/slow-lane Internet by including reference to what they describe "managed services" i.e services they would provide at increased cost to the consumer and give precedence over other traffic on the public Internet. This is truly insidious stuff.
The weasel words have, of course, been very carefully thought out, and leave wide-open the opportunity for music industry insiders and other vested interests to define the parameters of what, in terms of their own partisan notions they might define as "illegal" content and just who will determine just what what material is deemed to violate copyright. This seems to be a case of an affiliation of interest groups making the bullets and expecting broadband access providers to fire them on command and under pain of sanction. So much for being "mere conduits."
Google and Verizon want a Internet regimented and controlled by themselves and their ilk and, as they put it, "predicated on order, rather than chaos".
The trouble is that their "order" inevitably will mean more surveillance, more cookies, more corporate control of the the web and its content together telcos and their bedfellows deciding what individuals may and may not access content, what that content is and the speed it will be delivered to them and, and last but by no means least, it means price rises for a two, three and who-knows-what-else speed Internet.
And, as we already know, whilst the proposal is for the FCC to be given some explicit authority to regulate parts of the public Internet, (apart from "managed services, that is) Google, Verizon et al don't want that power to be extended to wireless broadband. Why? "Premium Services" and money of course.
One always needs to be wary of special interest groups whipping-up hysteria and with dire but unfounded warnings that if the Internet is left to its own devices jobs will be lost, innovation will cease and the free-market trounced by a sort of anarcho-communist syndicalism. But this is what the media and comms networks conglomerates are doing and all of this, every bit of it, is about control, greed, preferment and money and, of course, getting the content they want us to see in front of us whilst stopping the new media from being able to use the web at all..
It behoves us to remember that there are many variations of the Internet and the one we use most often outside of a work environment (and often within it) is the so-called "public" Internet. It allows anyone who is to distribute any type of content to anyone else at any time.
As demand for bandwidth and speed continues to surge it is surely common sense (and an echo of the way things were with the "common carriers" of old) that a regulator should be permitted to set minimum service standards in regards to speed, reliability, quality of service and equality of access. This should and ought to include a "neutrality" requirement that any and all traffic must be managed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Beyond that basic public Internet service, telcos may (or may not have) spare capacity. Naturally enough, the carriers would like to use this to provide extra "private" services including faster routes for prioritised traffic. That all sounds all very fine and dandy, but the big and obvious worry is that if carriers and service providers are allowed to engineer a two- or three-speed web, they will leave the public Internet to wither on the vine, ignoring it and letting it stagnate and degrade. And who would be able to tell if public Internet provision was being pillaged to provide capacity for expensive fast lane services? Not the man and woman in the street and on the public web, that's for sure.
Martyn Warwick is the Board Director for TelecomTV. You can view the original article here.