What Scott Cleland (and Co.) Doesn’t Get About Net Neutrality

A few words here in response to the endless missives coming from Mr. Cleland about network neutrality—via his blog at Netcompetition.org. Mr. Cleland was once known for his in-depth, informed and passionate analysis about the intersections between technology and policy. But now Mr. Cleland has become, shall we say, outright dyspeptic. He is convinced—we assume sincerely—that network neutrality advocates are either greedy monopolists themselves (Microsoft) or monopolists in the making (Google). Mr. Cleland and others conveniently claim that the battle over network neutrality is just a digital food fight among giants.

But we want to make it clear, again, what the network neutrality fight is about. It’s having a U.S. digital media system where all forms of content can conveniently and affordably be created & distributed—to TV’s, PC’s, and mobile devices. Network neutrality is a policy where access to content doesn’t depend on the whims of the owners of your network, operating system, or e-commerce provider. It means maximum freedom in the broadband era, an enhancing of our democracy. That includes the right to receive any kind of content you want—now. In the not too distant future, the ability of programmers and political leaders to effectively communicate ideas will depend on their access to the “triple play” distribution system. The battle for network neutrality is to ensure we have no digital gatekeepers—including AT&T, Comcast, as well as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, etc.

Mr. Cleland’s backers wish to control that future—otherwise they would have to content themselves with only the (considerable) revenues from fair-minded distribution. Comcast, AT&T and the others all want to be King of the broadband domain. But in a digital democracy—there shouldn’t be lords of the realm, only citizen/users/creators.

So, as we go off for a few days to the place where they are also helping decide the future of our broadband system (Advertising Week in NY), we ask that Mr. Cleland pause and reflect. We hope he will join us in saying, “A curse on all your houses—those that wish to domineer and overly profit from a media system that belongs to all of us.” Imagine—a broadband environment run on behalf of all the people.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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