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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 23
Nov
2017

OMG Net Neutrality

What Max Reckons

What’s your opinion on net neutrality?

Anonymous

I’m against it. I just think it’s hypocritical to say we should live in a world where corporations are free to shape laws and pay no tax but not screw the internet. That seems unfair to me.

Don’t get me wrong: You definitely want to keep ISPs’ hands off the net as much as you can. ISPs are like water utilities that realized they should come right into your home and decide what kind of showers you can have, since it’s their water. You don’t want a bunch of water engineers trying to sell you eight-minute shower bundles. No-one wants that.

But I’m not comfortable with the portrayal of Net Neutrality as a fight between good companies and bad companies. That dynamic always gives me the heebie-jeebies. There’s just something about people praising the kindness and decency of an amoral profit-making machine that doesn’t sit well with me. I mean, I’m glad some companies are better than others. I appreciate that they’re not all dumping oil in the oceans and poisoning children and telling employees they’re family right before they fire them. It’s definitely a good thing that companies who get financially punished if they have a bad public image are compelled to act nicer than ones who don’t.

I just don’t like pretending they’re champions of freedom. Last time I checked, Apple and Google and Facebook and Netflix and all the rest were super-interested in sealing everybody into their own sections of the internet for money. Well, not so much Google. Google is still pretty great. But as a rule, they are big fans of the principle of removing user choice in exchange for cash. In this particular case, abolishing Net Neutrality means they might have to pay cash to ISPs, so they’re against that. But they’re all still busy working on their own forms of user lock-in.

The other thing is that this keeps happening. How many times has the battle for Net Neutrality been won? Four times? And each time the ISPs go away and sulk with their paid-for politicians and wait for everyone to stop cheering about how they saved the internet, and then they return with a new version that tries to do the same thing. So I would like to dispel the illusion that we’re actually accomplishing anything substantial here, and instead take a look at the system that allows a thousand things like this to pass a year, only more quietly because they’re not opposed by major corporations, steadily entrenching inequality, selling out the future for the short-term gain of a powerful few.

But since we’re not doing that, Net Neutrality is okay, I guess.

Comments

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Perrorist (#3640)

Location: Central Coast, NSW
Quote: "No flow, no go."
Posted: 24 days ago

100% agree on this.

Jon (#5322)

Location: California (USA)
Quote: "Babelicious"
Posted: 24 days ago

Sarcasm or enlightened cynicism? Or is there no longer a difference?

1001.0010.0101 (#925)

Location: Turn left at your CPU
Quote: "How can something be deemed artificial if it is itself. e.g. A.I."
Posted: 23 days ago

Fair enough.

So how do you feel about gearbox neutrality?

Machine Man subscriber Toby O (#2900)

Location: Sydney
Quote: "You can't sell your soul to the devil if he's not buying"
Posted: 23 days ago

Totally feel that - so many other laws and policies are under the radar. I personally am glad I'm not in a position to decide exactly how much to upset the have-nots before they start rioting.

On a more positive note, and speaking of legislation under the radar, in the state of Victoria, there's an e-waste ban to landfill. www.epa.vic.gov.au/business-and-industry/guidelines/waste-guidance/ewaste-reprocessing-in-victoria

Erica (#3067)

Location: Seattle
Quote: "So I've been thinking about this "are you a bird or a tree" business and I think a truly old soul would understand that there is no difference between the two."
Posted: 23 days ago

Love this post! Thanks Max!

Jocabia (#4630)

Location: Sarasota, FL
Posted: 23 days ago

Poignant. It's worth noting that the biggest way this will hurt is further compartmentalizing Americans. That's ashtray don't massive damage to the world and for those of us trying to stop it this is a heavy punch in a fight full of mostly jabs.

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