October 3, 2007 · Lessig
Five years ago Monday, Congress (I believe) for the first time heard the word “Network Neutrality.” As Tim Wu has described, in the summer of 2002, he and I talked through how the campaign to support “end-to-end” neutrality might be extended. (See, e.g., “The Policy Implications of End-to-End.”) He then ran with the reframing of “Network Neutrality,” and thanks to his great work, and others, the idea has stuck.
Lots of progress has been made on this issue in the last five years. Fantastic organizations (like Free Press‘s SaveTheInternet.org) have mobilized real attention to this issue. No one imagined five years ago that meme would spread so fast and so well.
But I am especially happy now to have the support of AT&T and Verizon on this issue, as they’re obviously now pushing to get some real Net Neutrality legislation passed in Congress soon.
“What?” you ask? “AT&T and Verizon?!!! Are you nuts?”
Yea, I know the conventional wisdom — AT&T and Verizon, like all carriers, want no Net Neutrality regulation. But how else to explain the absurd gaffes of the last couple months? AT&T censoring Eddie Vedder. AT&T censoring NARAL. Verizon and AT&T have Terms of Service that permit them to censor criticism of them.
Sure, these companies MAY BE extraordinarily inept. They MAY BE just tripping up all over the place.
They may be simply signaling their own non-neutral position in a competitive market for networks, allowing consumers to select other networks that are more neutral. (Scratch that: I forgot. No more competition. See this fantastic graphic over at Wikipedia to get a flavor of the retrenchment that is telecom policy in America today.)
So, sure. Maybe. Maybe this is just a mistake. But I don’t buy it. These guys spend millions on lobbying every year. (Actually, probably every month.) How could they possible be so inept? Isn’t a better interpretation of the events of the last few months that they just really want what would be good for the Net generally — a very clear set of neutrality regulations?
(And yes, of course I am.)