Is the Internet a highway? Should we “preserve” its “neutrality?” Should we regulate it like the phone system? Or electricity? Or railroads?
“Net neutrality,” a conceptual metaphor, is usually explained with a slew of more concrete metaphors — from grocery shopping to airplane seating. But does this ongoing poetry slam of metaphor one-upsmanship really help?
NPR asked our own Berin Szoka. He responded:
The beauty of the Internet really is that it defies metaphor. It is constantly evolving. It’s hard to put that in a box.
Like the FCC itself, we prefer to talk about “open Internet.” Why? Because “openness” is the least static metaphor one could use. It embraces both the concerns behind net neutrality and the idea that we shouldn’t try to “preserve” the Internet of 2014. As we said in our FCC comments on net neutrality “The Open Internet,”
If the Internet really is ‘open,’ shouldn’t all companies be free to experiment with new technologies, business models and partnerships?
Our own Geoff Manne answered this question:
The best policy would be to maintain the “Hands off the Net” approach that has otherwise prevailed for 20 years. That means a general presumption that innovative business models and other forms of “prioritization’ are legal.” Innovation could thrive, and regulators could still keep a watchful eye, intervening only where there is clear evidence of actual harm, not just abstract fears.
There’s a metaphor we can live with: borrowing “First. do no harm” from medicine. Anyone trying to steer the Internet’s evolution from on high would do well to keep that humility in mind.
- “Understanding Net(flix) Neutrality,” an op-ed by Geoffrey Manne in the Detroit News on Netflix’s strategy to confuse interconnection costs with neutrality issues
- “The Feds Lost on Net Neutrality, But Won Control of the Internet,” an op-ed by Berin Szoka and Geoffrey Manne in Wired.com
- “Bipartisan Consensus: Rewrite of ‘96 Telecom Act is Long Overdue,” a post on TF’s blog highlighting the key points from TechFreedom and ICLE’s joint comments on updating the Communications Act