Mike Masnick, posting on Techdirt, notes an unfortunate development in U.S. politics: the adoption of network neutrality as a partisan issue. At which point the discussion starts to sound eerily familiar:
The only reasons the telcos are in the position to violate network neutrality are because they’ve pretty much been granted subsidies and monopoly rights of way – and part of that bargain was that to increase competition, there needed to be open and fair access. To suddenly claim that we need a hands off approach is ignoring the fact that there’s never been a hands off approach and the companies involved were granted special rights.
This neutrality dilemma reminds me a lot of similar discussions of free markets. The difference is that it is a less mature discussion – for now. We have been talking about markets for a long time now, and we no longer frame the debate in terms of whether a market is simply free or un-free, as all markets exist in a relative state of freedom at all times.
The debate on neutrality, being younger, so it still sounds, like a bunch of people agitating for or against a perect state of being known as ‘neutrality’. But like freedom, neutrality an ethos, not a state of being. As Masnick implies, there may be such a thing as objective reality (I like to think so), but there is no such thing as objective neutrality.