The end of network neutrality for the mobile internet

Excerpted from a commentary by John Naughton:

“On Tuesday, the US Federal Communications Commission, which has the power to set the rules for internet use in the US, issued a ruling which administered the latest kick to the hornets’ nest. In an admirably succinct summary, my Guardian colleague Charles Arthur puts it thus: the FCC “seems to have done the right thing – defending neutrality – for fixed-line broadband, but fumbled it on mobile“. This is because the proposed rules “seem to allow mobile carriers to decide that they can introduce pay-per-service charges, so that Skype or YouTube or Facebook might be charged to get their content on to the networks; alternatively (or perhaps additionally), users who wanted those services might find themselves being charged extra. That, obviously, means that those services are not being treated in a ‘neutral’ way. Which means that you don’t have net neutrality.”

Or, to put in another way, the FCC seems to have endorsed net neutrality for the past (fixed-line internet connections) while abandoning it for the future.

Does this matter? Yes, because while most people still get their internet connections via fixed-line broadband, the likelihood is that in 10 years’ time a majority will access the net via wireless connections. And if the FCC ruling stands, the wireless sphere will be anything but neutral. It will be dominated by the carriers – the telcos – who see no merit in neutrality. Which is why some people feel that the FCC’s decision effectively means kissing goodbye to the open internet. “The neutering of the internet is now the unofficial policy of the Federal Communications Commission,” writes Dan Gillmor, for example. “Contrary to the happy talk from FCC chairman Julius Genachowski… the move is well underway to turn the internet into a regulated playground for corporate giants.”

Sceptics about net neutrality will doubtless portray this as an over-reaction. Until I read Tim Wu’s new book – The Master Switch: the Rise and Fall of Information Empires (Knopf, 2010) – I might have agreed with them. But Professor Wu places all this in a more sombre context – of what he calls the Cycle.”

And the cycle is this:

“History shows a typical progression of information technologies: from somebody’s hobby to somebody’s industry; from jury-rigged contraption to slick production marvel; from a freely accessible channel to one strictly controlled by a single corporation or cartel — from open to closed system.”

1 Comment The end of network neutrality for the mobile internet

  1. AvatarTom Crowl

    It’s imperative that full network neutrality extend to the mobile Internet!

    Only 20% of the developing world’s population has access to the web. Their connection is expanding rapidly… and its predominantly expected to come via mobile devices.

    The quote you close with is sadly true. Historically we can see that the potentials of television for civic engagement, better elections, etc. (in the U.S. certainly) were thoroughly corrupted… to the point that now a major root of the problem of money in politics can be attributed to MEDIA COSTS!… On what should be recognized as a critical PUBLICLY ESSENTIAL TECHNOLOGY!

    The Internet landscape is being rapidly carved up into private fiefdoms.

    I strongly, even urgently (at considerable personal sacrifice; I’m without support or connections) have been pointing out that at least one corner (a critical corner in my opinion) should be reserved to the Commons… to ALL of humanity.

    At its root, a civilization (or any social organism) is a product of individual and group decisions (ideas+actions) operating within the confines of the physical environment and natural law.

    We then see culture as the expression of this “social energy”.

    Money was developed originally as a technology for the allocation of excess social energy where complexity (and loss of various forms of proximity) required conventions beyond the less formalized methods of a hunter-gatherer group.

    I believe this suggest some re-thinking about the nature of money and capital (and capital creation) but that’s another story…

    The point here is that the nature of this “social energy” in a scaled organism requires that the exchange of this energy NOT be bound by transaction costs or other complications IN AREAS RELATED TO COMMONS-DEDICATED FUNCTIONS ESPECIALLY…

    These particular areas of exchange actually pre-date the need for or existence of the commercial transaction and require special attention.

    This problem (which extends also into the political participation sphere especially) is directly linked to neglected scaling issues in this new landscape… and the capabilities required for Commons-oriented transactions in that space… and why that requires a viable, simple and secure MICRO-transaction.

    The Commons-dedicated Account* System:

    *A self-supporting , Commons-owned neutral network of accounts for both political and charitable monetary contribution… which for fundamental reasons of scale must allow a viable micro-transaction. Such a network ideally should maintain its own cloud and bank. Accounts may be created and/or maintained with zero balances and/or only momentary balances during a pass-through transfer (I believe the monetization model requires no burden on the actual transaction.)

    Its use of existing currencies is unavoidable but need not be the only currencies … (in other words it can facilitate the development of local or specialized currencies)…

    The utility of such a distributed, Commons-owned and governed network… which maintains its OWN CLOUD AND BANKING (ultimately including credit creation)… then becomes a vital, global LANDSCAPE for human development…

    However the critical first step is to to catalyze the network WHILE THE EXISTING STRUCTURE STILL EXISTS!

    Decision Technologies: Currencies and the Social Contract

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.