Net ignorance

The Weasel steers clear of politics, but the Net Neutrality issue is central to the future of our industry. Though I’m an advocate of Net Neutrality, I see the merits in opposing positions and look forward to the debate. Earlier I joked about telecom industry lobbyists taking a page out of the inheritance tax play book. By simply referring to it as the Death Tax, opponents of the inheritance tax have been able to reframe the debate. To some it’s troubling that the debate can be reframed so easily by such a shallow gesture, but that’s the reality of early 21st century politics. Most voters don’t do details. A headline and a couple of sound bites will do. A tax paid on fewer than 1% of American estates is opposed by almost half of American voters. Tip of the hat to Mr. Rove. Hey, there’s nothing stopping the proponents of the tax from renaming it the Silver Spoon Tax.

It’s too bad. There’s a lot to be gleaned from a healthy debate on the inheritance tax issue. What would the effects of a repeal be on philanthropy? How much revenue does the tax generate?

Like the inheritance tax, there are valid arguments to be made on both sides of the Net Neutrality issue based on differing economic viewpoints. There should be a vigorous discussion over the future of the public Internet , but to have someone like Senator Ted Stevens blather on incoherently in a committee meeting is a disservice to our democracy and an insult to the voting public. A committee chairman should have some idea about the issue being debated.

Stevens’ speech and his seeming contempt for facts would be amusing if it was presented by the late Gilda Radner’s Emily Litella on Saturday Night Live. He completely misstates the issue, claiming that those in favor of Net Neutrality are supporting a two-tiered system, that the telecoms are actually seeking to protect consumers’ interests, and that all the streaming and download services currently available on the web are hitching a free ride. He implies that services such as iTunes pay the same $14.95 per month as he does for Internet usage. (I should send the senator a copy Xprove’s bandwidth usage bill.)

Listen to Stevens. Like the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, it’s virtually impossible to follow the random thoughts and incomplete sentences. At one point he asserts that it took five days for “an Internet” (email message) to arrive due to Internet congestion from all those streaming services.

2 Thoughts on “Net ignorance

  1. Martin@digital-heave on July 8, 2006 at 5:57 am said:

    Who is this bumbling fool? I love the way he fails to make the basic connection between the US, the consumers, actually wanting movie downloads etc etc. Who exactly does he think these big bad commercial users are selling their services to?!

  2. The “bumbling fool” is a Republican senator from Alaska – chair of the committee charged with drafting telecom legislation.

    Nearly one third of US households are not online. So there’s a significant portion of the US electorate capable of agreeing with Sen. Stevens.

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