Here’s some great audio (in two segments) from an interview between Mark Steyn and Mark Levin. They cover a huge range of topics, as the post title suggests. Funny, and informative – Give it a listen:
So happy to have Mark Steyn back on the scene.
Here’s some great audio (in two segments) from an interview between Mark Steyn and Mark Levin. They cover a huge range of topics, as the post title suggests. Funny, and informative – Give it a listen:
So happy to have Mark Steyn back on the scene.
First of all – what is Net Neutrality? I think the best way to describe net neutrality to a layperson is to first establish some groundwork. (If you already understand Net Neutrality skip down to ‘Political Implications’) Here are two different concepts:
It is vitally important to understand that the two items are not the same thing. You may be thinking – well, duh – of course they aren’t the same thing, but the foundation of arguments around Net Nuetrality rely on this understanding. Again – here’s a basic analogy:
I pay the electric company for the amount (volume) of electricity I use. I do not pay the electric company based on what I happen to use the electricity for. Whether I am simply plugging in a clock/radio – or I am playing Mario tunes with a Tesla Coil, the electric company is only charging me for the amount of electricity I use (very little with the radio, quite a bit with the Tesla Coil).
Again – Utility Provider does not equal Service Usage.
Net Neutrality is basically legislation that applies the same definitions to internet bandwidth service. I pay Comcast a certain amount to provide me with an agreed upon amount of bandwidth service. I do not pay Comcast based on what I use that amount of service for.
You should care because many Internet Service Providers are trying to change this definition with the strong-arm of government. Essentially – they are attempting to remove ‘Net Neutrality’ and define the two concepts (service provider – usage) as one. What Service Providers want to do is to be able to, not only charge you for how much service you use – but also, to charge you for what you use that service for.
For instance, Comcast already attempts to charge you more for having multiple computers connected to your cable modem. The question is – why? Let’s say I am paying for 5 Megabits (mbs) of service (I am simplifying the technical jargon so forget about uploading/downloading speed, etc). I should have 5 Megabits of service, regardless of how many computers I hook up to it.
It’s much worse than this though because, not only do Service Providers want to control what devices you hook to your service – the also want to control what types of content you transfer over their network. What the crap is that? I am paying for 5 Megabits of service – End of discussion. As long as I don’t exceed that amount – or do something destructive to their network (this would probably happen in my Tesla Coil project above) – how do they get to decide what I do with the service I pay for? 5mbs = 5mbs, period. They are service providers – NOT content controllers. This would be analogous to the phone company charging me based on what topics I discuss on the phone.
Again – the two concepts: Service Provider and Usage are not the same thing.
Obviously – the reason that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) want to do this is because they want to charge you differently for certain specific types of service usage.
This brings up the issue of network ‘overbooking’ and ‘tiered internet’.
Let’s say Comcast provides you with 5Mbs (megabits) of service. They are banking on the fact that once in a while you are on your computer, checking ESPN, or email – or whatever. This of course only uses a tiny amount of bandwidth, given you are essentially paying for 100% constant 5Mbs of service. This is why the Comcast fine print really reads “up to 5Mbs.”
The problem is that current internet technological advances have brought about things that use much more bandwidth at a much more consistent rate (unlike the once in a while ‘getting on email’) such as VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol – basically transmitting voice data over a network), streaming video services, and Bit-Torrent and file sharing (torrents work by connecting a swarm of users together to share content – thus increasing the speed of transfers since there are many sources to send and receive data from, rather than one or two). These technologies and services obviously use much more bandwidth than the occasional user getting on ‘teh Internetz’ to ‘do the computer.’
In short – internet and device technological advances have out paced the network providers (a prime example of the ultimate free market provided by the internet) who have actually over-promised users about their internet service. The simple fact is that Comcast can’t even begin to provide 5Mbs of service to all of its users. So where do the service providers turn to? The government (more on this in the next section).
Next, we have the idea of Tiered Internet:
Certain types high bandwidth network content would be appropriated to a different (more expensive) tier of service provision however the Internet Service Providers sees fit. At this point we have just breached the divide between service provider, and content – creating a sort of middleman. In a crappy way – the ISPs would be able to choose what content fits into the higher tiers and what belongs in lower ones – and charge accordingly.
Many people (including myself, who work in the online software industry) see this as a huge impediment on the free market nature of the internet – as innovative internet content providers such as YouTube, Google, Hulu, or services like Bit-Torrent could end up at the mercy of the internet service providers (two very different industries).
Obviously, there could be a serious stifling impact on advancement of online companies and technology – not to mention a detrimental regulatory effect on the internet free market, imposed by the service provider (who exist in a different market).
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I generally take a conservative stance and am a huge proponent of free markets and limited government. It seems like many in government, especially conservatives are touchy about what they perceive to be ‘government regulation’ of the free market. In my view – Net Neutrality does not violate these free market ideas, In fact – quite the reverse is true, and I will explain why.
In the case of Net Neutrality – opponents that use the ‘free market’ argument usually make a case along these lines: “Well, the service providers own the data lines – so they should be free to do whatever they want with them.” Normally I might agree with this – except, arguably the Internet is more of a Service/Utility than anything else. More importantly – Net Neutrality is simply a principal that defines business types, and not really some sort of governmental regulatory meddling. (Not to mention – the un-regulated internet is itself, a prime example of successful laissez-faire capitalism in a free market system.)
In fact – it is partly the governments fault, in my opinion, for fostering opposition to Net Neutrality. For instance -the legal system has foolishly attacked network service providers for ‘supporting’ illegal internet activity (usage) – such as illegal file sharing. In doing so – they are incorrectly presuming that the two concepts of Net Neutrality, are one and the same. This would be like suing the water company over someone who drowns a child in bathtub water.
What the government needs to do is fairly simple: properly define the two concepts of Net Neutrality. In doing so – it must grant service providers with immunity from legal proceedings with regard to the usage of their services. Also – it should define Internet Access as a bandwidth (or time) based service – not a content service. Note that this doesn’t require some huge new government bureaucracy – it simply demands a proper legal definition.
Finally – it bears mentioning that it is a misconception that conservatives are 100% anti any sort of government programs or regulations. Obviously – if that were the case – they would be anti-government. (Another important distinction is that corporations are not necessarily ideological -neither liberal, nor conservative- but, as in the case of Net Neutrality – are instead opportunistic). There clearly need to be some laws in place to protect competition in a free market – such as the one created by the internet. Otherwise you open up the playing field to ‘crony capitalism‘ which essentially eliminates real competition, and thus is a destructive force to the fundamentals of a free market. Essentially, without Net Neutrality, there would be blending of two different industries – one infrastructure, and one data.
The nature of national security situations and legislation are vastly complex, so the following are simply some of my thoughts:
The only case where the ISPs should be requested to hand over any sort of user information should be a the situation where the government has tracked communication from an identified threat to a certain location or person. Even in this case – I don’t think the ISP should be allowed to record, log, or be required to hand over any information other than location and perhaps usage amounts. Location and Usage Amounts are clearly within the jurisdiction of a service provider – so that only seems fair. Neither should the ISP be held legally responsible for the content of the users transmissions unless there is clear evidence that the ISP had anything to do with the particular users involved other than providing them with service.
In other civil cases I think there are plenty of ways that the Justice Department could track illegal activity – but this should not involve the service providers.
Essentially – the service providers should not have any business meddling with the content transmitted over their networks. I probably sound like a broken record, but I can’t repeat this enough.
Not so fast.
In the midst of the torrents (no pun intended) of glistening putrescent horse excrement Hollywood, the media, and the Obama campaign have been hosing Sarah Palin with 24/7, there is one man whose record has quietly been ignored (ok fine…one man besides Senator Obama). That would be Senator Joe Biden.
What is his record with regard to Net Neutrality? To put it bluntly, it completely sucks. Consider the following less-than-sunny appraisal from Gizmodo:
Maybe you don’t care about the doings in Washington, but you may want to know that Biden considers a lot of what you do care about criminal activity. Here’s what I’m talking about:
• He asked Congress to spend $1 billion to monitor peer-to-peer activity. (In fairness, much of this is to prevent child pornography, but the tactic is apparently a little blunt.)
• Two Biden bills have been explicitly anti-encryption, because you know, encryption makes it hard for the FBI to read people’s e-mails.
• He has expressed support for internet taxes and internet filtering in schools and libraries.
• The RIAA seems to be one of his best buddies: Biden sponsored a bill that would restrict recording of songs from satellite and net radio, and another one that would make it a felony to “trick” a computer into playing back unauthorized songs or running bootlegged videogames. That latter one died when Verizon, Microsoft, Apple, eBay and Yahoo all argued against it.
• Biden was one of just four senators invited to attend a celebration of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act hosted by the MPAA’s Jack Valenti and the RIAA’s Hillary Rosen, two of American file-sharer’s most wanted.
• When he was asked in 2006 about proposing net-neutrality laws, he said there was no need, since any bit-filtering violations would provoke such a huge public ruckus they’d have to hold congressional hearings anyway—and they’d be standing-room only.
If you think that’s dire – try this article from Yahoo News:
By choosing Joe Biden as their vice presidential candidate, the Democrats have selected a politician with a mixed record on technology who has spent most of his Senate career allied with the FBI and copyright holders, who ranks toward the bottom of CNET’s Technology Voters’ Guide, and whose anti-privacy legislation was actually responsible for the creation of PGP
Also, check out Biden’s voting record at the CNET Technology Vote.
Basically – it’s a bipartisan FAIL when it comes to Net Neutrality. McCain’s also sucks, Obama’s is about 50%, and Palin’s is unknown. Clearly neither ticket is all that hot on this issue – but this should come as no surprise to conservatives like myself. Again, government fails to understand and keep up with free market innovations. I never saw that coming…(cough *sarcasm* cough)
The issue here for conservatives (as well as others) is that Net Neutrality is not about government messing with the free markets. Internet providers did not create the online free market – they created the technology that supports it. Like I mentioned above – Net Neutrality is about a legal distinction between service providers and content, not a new government bureaucracy. In effect – the advances of technology created the ultimate free market online. This is similar to the way that the provision of electricity to homes created a a whole new market for electrical devices. A strong argument can be made that the proper definition of Net Neutrality actually protects the laissez-faire capitalism of the online free market.
The government needs to acknowledge the creation of the internet free market – and protect it. That’s what Net Neutrality is all about. You should contact your senators and representatives, regardless of political party, and clarify what this is all about.
Sean brought up some great questions in the comments that I’m elevating into this post (as if it wasn’t long enough…ha! Complex issue though – needs much discussion.)
The issue with tiering the Internet is a huge concern of mine personally. As an entrepreneur who plans to make most of the money in my lifetime from Internet related ventures, I do not want to have to get in bed with Comcast or whoever the *service providers* might be to make sure that my product gets delivered with equal emphasis as CNN, ESPN, or whoever is already part of the party.
I also greatly am troubled by the call to end encryption by the FBI (as Gizmodo.com reported). Encryption is very important to a lot of the technologies that are developed and I personally don’t want anybody to sniff my emails/credit cards.
What do you think of city governments becoming more responsible for acting as ISP’s? It seems that a city could ding each of its citizens with a little bit of a tax hike and cut out the Comcast & Time Warners altogether… Or is your point that the ISP’s are not the enemy but rather the government and its inability to define the rules?
As far as city run internet service goes – I think it is kind of a double-edged sword. The obvious advantage would be the universal access, and certainly (perhaps not though…) a more clear definition between service and content. However – as in other government solutions, there are many potential downsides.
For one – anything powered by tax dollars become involuntary. You will be paying for a service – simply because it exists – regardless of quality. This could have serious ramifications, especially with a service as technical as internet connectivity. (Low speeds in your neck of town? Highly unlikely your taxes with reflect that) A government solution (similar to ‘crony capitalism’) effectively eliminates competition and choice. Sure – you could say you get some choice, such as a vote on the program every couple of years, but contrast that with our current system which constitutes a voluntary vote-with-dollars each month. (I hire Comcast, bums that they are, to provide me with internet service – and I can fire them at will.)
Perhaps you could argue for a government solution, along-side private service providers. This is problematic also because the tax funding the government ISP would then have to become voluntary – giving people an option to pay for the city service vs. the private service. Or it wouldn’t and you would just have to pay for both.
I want to reiterate that I’m in no way trying to make a case that Comcast, Time Warner and others are some shining example of free market perfection. (Actually – I think that they, in many ways are attempting to subvert free market competition.) To answer your last question – I think both parties are to blame. Private ISPs are opportunistically trying to take over and control the market – mainly because the government has failed to properly define what the internet is. (clearly – The Internet != internet access.)
What the government can and should do is make sure that there are clear and fair rules/laws governing the internet service market – mostly defining internet service as one industry, wholly separated from the actual internet entity (content). Most importantly – like I mentioned above – the government must acknowledge that the internet is itself a free marketplace outside the jurisdiction of the internet service providers.
Finally – the government should do everything in it’s power to encourage competition in the internet service industry. It should be wary of crony capitalism and regional monopolies. If it is going to allow a giant like Comcast, then it should be equally welcoming and encouraging to competitors like Verizon FIOS, etc… not allowing ‘deals’ where a certain provider is granted exclusive access to a certain area. The more service options local citizens are able to choose from, the better.
Oh yeah – and the whole ‘end encryption’ movement is completely nonsensical. Internet Data Security is a crucial facet for internet market success. Clearly – the arguments for encryption are legion. If the FBI is concerned about monitoring illegal online activity – trying to do away with encryption is about as foolish a concept as gun control. You universally punish every responsible user, for a small % of miscreants. The FBI needs to look elsewhere because ending encryption is a ludicrous solution to the problem.
Jonah Goldberg wrote a great piece this last week about Capitalism and why people tend to dislike it – though most of their entire livelihood is a direct result of living in a capitalist system. I think it it a very important opinion to add into the ring. Read it here, or below (emphasis mine):
It’s an old story. Loving parents provide a generous environment for their offspring. Kids are given not only ample food, clothing and shelter, but the emotional necessities as well: encouragement, discipline, self-reliance, the ability to work with others and on their own. And yet, in due course, the kids rebel. Some even say their parents never loved them, that they were unfair, indifferent, cruel. Often, such protests are sparked by parents’ refusal to be even more generous. I want a car, demands the child. Work for it, insist the parents. Why do you hate me? asks the ingrate.
Of course, being an old story doesn’t make it a universal one. But the dynamic is universally understood.
We’ve all witnessed the tendency to take a boon for granted. Being accustomed to a provision naturally leads the human heart to consider that provision an entitlement. Hence the not-infrequent lawsuits from prison inmates cruelly denied their rights to cable TV or apple brown betty for desert.
And so it goes, I think, with capitalism generally.
Capitalism is the greatest system ever created for alleviating general human misery, and yet it breeds ingratitude.
People ask, “Why is there poverty in the world?” It’s a silly question. Poverty is the default human condition. It is the factory preset of this mortal coil. As individuals and as a species, we are born naked and penniless, bereft of skills or possessions. Likewise, in his civilizational infancy man was poor, in every sense. He lived in ignorance, filth, hunger, and pain, and he died very young, either by violence or disease.
The interesting question isn’t “Why is there poverty?” It’s “Why is there wealth?” Or: “Why is there prosperity here but not there?”
At the end of the day, the first answer is capitalism, rightly understood. That is to say: free markets, private property, the spirit of entrepreneurialism and the conviction that the fruits of your labors are your own.
For generations, many thought prosperity was material stuff: factories and forests, gold mines and gross tons of concrete poured. But we now know that these things are merely the fringe benefits of wealth. Stalin built his factories, Mao paved over the peasants. But all that truly prospered was misery and alienation.
A recent World Bank study found that a nation’s wealth resides in its “intangible capital” — its laws, institutions, skills, smarts and cultural assumptions. “Natural capital” (minerals, croplands, etc.) and “produced capital” (factories, roads, and so on) account for less than a quarter of the planet’s wealth. In America, intangible capital — the stuff in our heads, our hearts, and our books — accounts for 82 percent of our wealth.
Any number of countries in Africa are vastly richer in baubles and soil than Switzerland. But they are poor because they are impoverished in what they value.
In large measure our wealth isn’t the product of capitalism, it is capitalism.
And yet we hate it. Leaving religion out of it, no idea has given more to humanity. The average working-class person today is richer, in real terms, than the average prince or potentate of 300 years ago. His food is better, his life longer, his health better, his menu of entertainments vastly more diverse, histoilette infinitely more civilized. And yet we constantly hear how cruel capitalism is while this collectivism or that is more loving because, unlike capitalism, collectivism is about the group, not the individual.
These complaints grow loudest at times like this: when the loom of capitalism momentarily stutters in spinning its gold. Suddenly, the people ask: What have you done for me lately? Politicians croon about how we need to give in to Causes Larger than Ourselves and peck about like hungry chickens for a New Way to replace dying capitalism.
This is the patient leaping to embrace the disease and reject the cure. Recessions are fewer and weaker thanks in part to trade, yet whenever recessions appear on the horizon, politicians dive into their protectionist bunkers. Not surprising that this week we saw the demise of the Doha round of trade negotiations, and this campaign season we’ve heard the thunder of anti-trade rhetoric move ever closer.
This is the irony of capitalism. It is not zero-sum, but it feels like it is. Capitalism coordinates humanity toward peaceful, productive cooperation, but it feels alienating. Collectivism does the opposite, at least when dreamed up on paper. The communes and collectives imploded in inefficiency, drowned in blood. The kibbutz lives on only as a tourist attraction, a baseball fantasy camp for nostalgic socialists. Meanwhile, billions have ridden capitalism out of poverty.
And yet the children of capitalism still whine.
Here are a couple more closing thoughts.
A few days ago I wrote this letter to Peter Defazio about the Fairness Doctrine. I was happy to get a real response from him. I thought that you all might find this interesting as it illuminates a clear difference in understanding when it comes to government power (his response is below, followed by my closing comments):
Representative Peter DeFazio,
I would consider myself philosophically conservative on most issues, so I know that we probably disagree on many things. However, I respect you greatly as a fellow American, and I enjoy hearing your opinion, however different from my own it may be.
With that in mind, I am certain that you and I would agree about the importance for our government to secure liberty and protect an individual’s basic right to free speech. (see footnote 1)
For instance, it would be detrimental to individual liberty for the government to force individuals, groups, or companies to present certain viewpoints or ideas (whether Left leaning, or Right) to the public. In other words – it is a similar violation of liberty to have government forcing radio stations to promote certain ideas, as it is having the government force an environmental group to present certain viewpoints on a college campus.
Thus, I am confused as to why you would support legislation such as the Fairness Doctrine – which essentially amounts to the government forcing radio stations to carry certain aspects of content.
Who decides what’s fair? As a consumer of radio, I don’t need the government to decide what sort of speech I should be hearing. Similarly, I wouldn’t want the government telling colleges what their professors should be teaching.
The best thing about America, is that individuals have the liberty to support or not support stations, organizations, and institutions that carry viewpoints they like or dislike. For instance, I enjoy the freedom to discourage local radio stations from carrying jerks like Michael Savage, in favor of talkers with more class. I don’t need the government to step in and balance things out. I would be just as opposed to the government forcing Air America to carry conservative viewpoints as I would of the government forcing you to provide an opposing opinion when you give a speech.
Essentially, the issue here is personal Liberty. Our basic freedom to disagree, and yet discuss our differing viewpoints is what makes America so great. This is what freedom of speech (see footnote 1) is all about. In this case, I think we should let the people individually decide what they wish to listen to or not. The more personal choice individuals have, the freer we all are as a people.
Imagine you had your own radio show where you talked about your viewpoint on policies and government. Does it make sense for the government to require the stations carrying your show to have to provide opposing viewpoints? No. If people want to listen to your show they will – if they don’t, they’ll switch stations.
Even worse, how do you determine an ‘opposing viewpoint’? There are millions of different viewpoints (Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian, Universalist, Constitutional…just to get started) out there – it would be an impossible task for government to regulate. If government required this, most radio stations would probably just can everything. Then people wouldn’t hear any viewpoint. The bottom line is that this judgement is best left to each individual person.
Anyway, that’s my opinion on the matter. Like I said, I know we disagree on a lot – but I would encourage you to please consider my argument and perhaps reconsider your stance on things like the Fairness Doctrine. Likewise, I would also be interested in your point view on this topic.
Thanks so much for your time!
========= Here is his response (I highlighted a couple things to discuss at the end):
Thank you for your recent message on the Fairness Doctrine. I appreciate hearing from you.
The Fairness in Broadcasting act, which is better known as the Fairness Doctrine, was repealed in 1987. It provides that when broadcast stations discuss issues of public importance, they give reasonable time to opposing views. It in no way infringes on anyone’s First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court agreed in its ruling in .
But more importantly, it is important to note that the Fairness Doctrine does not in any way restrict people from expressing their views on the public airwaves. Talk radio hosts would be free to continuing doing the same shows they do today. The doctrine merely requires license holders to allow for opposing points of view to be heard. Hearing a fair and balanced debate is critical to helping Americans fully understand the issues our country faces.
The bottom line is that the airwaves over which over-the-air television and radio broadcast are distributed are owned by the American public, not the corporations that are granted a temporary license to carry programming on a given station. Therefore, it is entirely reasonable to require the license holder to act in the public interest by ensuring an opportunity for conflicting views to be heard on pressing issues of national importance. But, again, that doesn’t mean that each viewpoint would have to be offered equal time or that a talk radio host would be restricted in what issues he or she could discuss or what guests they could have on.
Again, thanks for contacting me on this matter. Please keep in touch.
Rep. Peter DeFazio
Fourth District, OREGON
I think that is an interesting response and I am very happy that Rep. DeFazio (or his staffers…) took the time to reply. Clearly, you can see that he believes that the government should require radio stations to allow for opposing viewpoints because it is in the public good.
Here lies a crucial departure in our understandings when it comes to governmental power. It seems clear that it is Rep. DeFazio’s view that the government decides what is in the best interest of the public. In this case, that means requiring a radio station to provide “conflicting views. (see footnote 2)”
This is a monumental moment of clarity!
I believe in the opposite. I think that the power lies in the publics’ free choice (that’s you!) to decide what they view to be good for themselves.
One quick possible objection before I expand on that idea:
It is logical to argue that the government is “the people”. After all, we elect them right? I mean, the fine folks of District 4 in Oregon chose to elect Rep. DeFazio, correct?
Of course this is true.
However, what people may not realize is that the public also elected to make certain radio shows (with certain viewpoints) successful over the airwaves in a much more direct and democratic way: With their own choice to listen!
Radio is successful only when it can generate revenue from advertising. Advertiser’s only sponsor shows that have good listener ratings. Therefore, the public (again…that’s you) have chosen to listen to whatever they/you want, in their/your own interest.
This is the very crux of personal Liberty in a free market system. You get to choose what is in your own best interest. Not The State! (You cannot get a more fundamentally core conservative principal than this.) Furthermore, did District 4 elect Rep. DeFazio so that he could decide what is in our best interest? I highly doubt it.
This is what Liberty and America in general, is all about: No matter who is elected into government, whether Republican or Democrat, what gives them the right to choose for you what is in your best interest.
This is fundamentally why I am now a conservative. I believe that the greatness of America lies in the fact that the power of our government is directly in the hands of it’s people. You and I are far better judges of what is in our own best interest than The State. And like I said in my letter, I have the freedom to turn off the radio when I feel that a certain viewpoint is not in my best interest, and so should you.
What do you think?