It's one of those obvious things that we should have, because we have the technology -- but we don't, likely because of corporate influence. Like cars that run without pollution or fossil fuels .... but oh, we don't have them, and maybe it has something to do with the power of the oil industry. Maybe, but of course no one really knows why a jillion dollars hasn't been invested in solving that whole oil thing.
Anyway, as usual, I digress. I'm talking about an iPhone or a Blackberry with a camera on it, that you can Skype people with, just like you can on your laptop.
To have that technology always running, at your fingertips (or in your purse, or your pocket, or chucked in with the pile of junk in the back seat of your car at the end of the day) would be awesome for us ... but devastating for the telecommunications industry. Why would corporate giants like AT&T, which has exclusive rights to provide wireless phone and internet service for the iPhone, or Comcast, the internet service provider behemoth, make it easy for consumers to cut them off at the knees at their bread-and-butter business of telephone communication?
They love to sell us minutes, and plans, and different tiers of service. And they love to do stuff like balk at the idea of Google voice on iPhones. It cuts into their business, right?
TechCrunch suspects, "probably correctly, that apps for Google Voice are being rejected at least in part through AT&T's influence, since Google Voice lets you send free text messages and delivers cut-rate international calls—on top of making phone numbers even more meaningless—making it scary to AT&T..."
Enter the FCC, in a sort of preemptive move that is mind boggling when it comes to the federal government. The FCC today proposed net neutrality rules that PC World says "is a huge win for entrepreneurs and consumers, and a major setback for telecom giants such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast." It's a proposal that is likely to pass 3-2, if the FCC commissioners vote as expected, in October.
This is where it's good that we have a president who won't give up his Blackberry, or his Twitter, or his promises to the tech community. This is a campaign promise President Obama is keeping. Check him out on MTV back in 2007, talking about what net neutrality means to him:
Here's more from PC World, because I think the writer, David Coursey, nailed it:
The rules take away the carriers' control over development of the Internet. Proponents of the new rules say they will ensure predicable Internet access to new services and applications.
My take: This is a great day for the Internet and it will be an even greater one when the FCC takes a formal vote. It is a win for the future in a battle against the established telecom interests as well as a move toward making the Internet a level playing field for developers.
Lacking these new rules, the carriers would be free to charge companies more to carry certain types of Internet traffic or to not carry it at all. There could be no uniformity between networks, meaning that an application that worked on one might not work on the others.
The Internet is successful because it has (mostly) been an open platform, available to all developers and technologies. The FCC is taking steps to make sure openness continues and yesterday's telecom giants will not have a veto over the Internet's future.
Of course, not everyone sees it this way. Some call it a government takeover of the internet. "So Long, Freedom," writes The Washington Prowler, on the American Spectator website:
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski will announce today his intent to put in place rules that would allow the federal government to regulate the Internet. In a coordinated move to highlight the decision, and to take credit with the left-wing supporters of the policy, known as "net neutrality," FCC sources say, President Obama will make remarks after Genachowski's remarks, endorsing the FCC chairman's decision.
Some comments from readers on that site:
RAY says: Net Neutrality is legalized theft. In this case, the theft of bandwidth. It means that people who don't build, pay for, a network will be allowed to use that network at will, for little cost to themselves and absolutely no investment requirements for the very network they will access.
JIM responds: Great summary. It's something like the medical care debate. Democrats count on it being confusing enough that they can confuse the public. Democrats want to take property from some and give it to others. The more government is involved with the internet, or with medicine, the more innovation will be killed and quality will decline.
So ... I guess what we're debating is: can government regulation of something make it ... free and neutral? Or is that an oxymoron?
I have a feeling this is something that, today, is mostly meaningless for the American consumer -- but in time, we may look back and see it as part of an Obama legacy that had little debate on the national stage yet widespread ramifications we could never have foreseen. Whether those are good or bad, I guess, we'll have to wait and see.