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Why is Silicon Valley Rebranding/Redefining Net Neutrality?


Via their Congresswoman, Silicon Valley is trying to redefine net neutrality for their benefit under the benign guise of “rebranding.”

Their desired re-definition is that net neutrality now should be the principle that “all bits are created equal.”

This is an unreasonable utopian escalation of the net neutrality debate. An “all bits are created equal” or “bit equality” principle would be a radical departure from the current decade-old “network neutrality” principle that the American Internet has long operated under.

Everyone knows that “neutrality” and “equality” are not synonyms and are not honestly used as interchangeable concepts in conversation, policy discourse, branding, or the law.

To appropriately address this attempt to force the FCC to redefine net neutrality, we will first hear from Silicon Valley, then from others and the FCC, and finally I will deconstruct this redefinition of net neutrality as “all bits are created equal” as untrue, nonsensical, unworkable, and harmful.      

First let’s hear officially from Silicon Valley.

In a recent video message, California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, who introduces herself as “proud to represent Silicon Valley,” calls for a Reddit contest to “rebrand net neutrality to more accurately reflect our goal…the principle that all Internet traffic is created equal and should be treated as such.”  

Rep. Eshoo declares Silicon Valley has problems with the current state of affairs: 1) a court case has led the FCC to propose a plan that would “split the flow of online traffic into tiers” -- a “fast lane” for “big online companies” and “a slow lane for everyone else;” 2) “most Americans have only 1 or 2 ISPs available to them;” and 3) “net neutrality is an “ambiguous term… that is being misused and abused in this debate.”

Rep. Eshoo asserts that a rebranding of “net neutrality” will let Americans know what “jargon box” they should check to get what they want.

Under the guise of a user-driven Reddit contest by “the American people,” Silicon Valley is trying to impose a fundamental change in what the overall goal and purpose of this regulatory process and effort is from users being in control of their Internet experience, to Silicon Valley edge companies enjoying “bit equality” (i.e. no Silicon Valley Internet distribution costs) for its highest-volume Internet traffic.

Second, consider how others and the FCC have defined net neutrality.

In 2003, Professor Tim Wu coined the term “network neutrality” to describe a communications network non-discrimination principle. In 2005, the FCC’s official Broadband Policy Statement addressed the notion of net neutrality as essentially a user’s freedom to access the legal content and applications of their choice, subject to reasonable network management.

In 2006, Google defined network neutrality as “the principle that Internet users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the Internet. Fundamentally, net neutrality is about equal access to the Internet.

Interestingly, in 2010, the FCC effectively defined net neutrality as a free and open Internet where there is “no blocking or unreasonable discrimination.”   

Now let’s deconstruct why a Silicon Valley-driven redefinition of net neutrality as “all bits are created equal” would be untrue, nonsensical, unworkable, and harmful.

Untrue: Multitudes of Internet users create content bits constantly. They appreciate everything or every “bit” they create does not require or deserve exact-equal speed of delivery, because they know bits necessary for real-time voice communications, (or gaming etc.,) obviously need delivery priority over non-real-time services, so that they can function with the quality Internet users expect.

They also appreciate different applications have different network requirements, e.g. real-time, latency, jitter, etc., in order to function as designed. Simply, if every denial-of-service bit was treated the same as every other bit, most of the Internet often would cease to operate the way Internet users have come to expect.  

Nonsensical: America’s Founding Fathers authored the original famous “all… created equalwords in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Apparently, Silicon Valley brand-doctors hope to imply that their redefinition of the net neutrality principle should, by cynical alliterative branding, garner some of the legitimacy and respect that the Declaration of Independence earned on its own unique historical merit. 

Unfortunately, everyone knows bits are inanimate, virtual ones and zeros, not living human beings. The Founding Fathers also recognized one Creator, while Silicon Valley’s brand doctors  trivialize the whole matter by self-endowing it to innumerable machine and human “creators,” in order to imply that bits somehow have a “unalienable rights” like people do, and that “bit equality” is somehow now an unalienable right on the Internet.

By what sovereign authority, other than Silicon Valley’s cynical brand acclamation, are “all bits created equal?”

All bits do not have equal value or rights to equal transmission. Who in Silicon Valley wants to make the argument that the bits that make up spam, viruses, malware, denial-of-service attacks, zero-day-threats, illegal activities, etc. must be treated the same as legal and normal Internet traffic?

Just like the Internet is simply a tool that can be used for good or ill, bits are an itty bitty tools that can be used for good or ill as well.

No society on earth treats illegal or harmful activities the same as legal benign activities. To assert “all bits are created equal” regardless of legality or harm, as a matter of national policy, regulation or law, is simply nonsensical.     

Unworkable:  Claiming “all bits are equal” is unreasonable in the real world. There are all sorts of legitimate and practical reasons for the FCC’s net neutrality policy of allowing reasonable network management, like congestion, counteracting denial-of-service attacks, filters for spam, viruses, malware, etc.

The FCC also has long approved differential treatment and pricing of bandwidth, i.e. aggregated bits, by speed, capacity, volume, technology, service, etc. -- because of different costs, economics, returns on investment, social goals, etc.

Even the harshest of nondiscrimination regulation under legacy Title II monopoly regulation would not treat all bits/traffic equal. Section 202 expressly allows just and reasonable “discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations facilities or services.” In other words, even a heavily-regulated monopoly in the past could treat usage (bits) very differently by amount/volume, by geography, by distance, by technology, by consumer versus commercial, by subsidy urban vs. rural, by specialized services like 1-800 vs. normal services, etc.

Treating all bits exactly the same is simply unworkable in the real world.   

Harmful: An “all bits are equal” model, which is an Internet commons model, not the operative Framework for Global Electronic Commercemodel established by the Clinton Administration in 1997, incorrectly imagines that utopian “bit equality” is the one and only thing that people and users want and need from the Internet.

Forcing a one-size-fits-all Internet view on users that have very different individual needs, wants, means, and expectations from the Internet actually takes away much more than it provides. The problem with forced sameness is that it enables the few to take advantage of the many, by using the Internet in irresponsible ways.

Moreover, isn’t governmental forced sameness of Internet traffic antithetical to the freedom part of a “free and open Internet?”

Is Silicon Valley now really advocating for freedom, as the Founding Fathers did in the Declaration of Independence or for the tyranny of forced sameness and forced transmission without fair compensation?

In sum, Silicon Valley is not trying to rebrand, but redefine what net neutrality is for its benefit and to the detriment of users.

What’s really going on here behind the soaring “all bits are created equal” rhetoric, is Silicon Valley is trying to evade its commercially-reasonable obligation to pay fair compensation for the outsized distribution costs that their commercial services cause for the Internet’s infrastructure.

Simply, Silicon Valley wants users to subsidize their businesses by paying for Silicon Valley’s normal business costs that should be paid by the companies distributing the highest-volume, highest-bandwidth consuming business bit flows.

Consumers should ask why does Silicon Valley deserve massive amounts of free bandwidth, when everyone expects them to pay for their own massive usage of electricity, gas, water, and package deliveries. 

Consumers also should ask is their internet usage equal to Netflix’, Google’s, Amazon’s, etc. and if it is not, is it fair or equal that they have to pay for the full cost of their Internet usage while Silicon Valley does not have to pay for the full cost of theirs?

That’s Silicon Valley’s real definition of “equality” exposed.



Internet as Oz Series

Part 1: The New Internet Association's Back Story [9-11-12]

Part 2: Top False Claims of the New Internet Association [9-20-12]

Part 3: Internet Astroturf 3.0 [10-1-12]

Part 4: Google Official Praises 'Partly Free' Regime's Privacy Law [10-30-12]

Part 5: Could Google Be the Lance Armstrong of Tech? [11-12-12]

Part 6: The Google Lobby Defines Big Internet's Policy Agenda [1-16-13]

Part 7: Big Internet's Most Special Interests [2-20-13]

Part 8: More Government Special Treatment for Big Internet Companies [4-9-13]

Part 9: Silicon Valley’s 6 Biggest Net Neutrality Fantasies – A Special Report