Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Deciphering net neutrality and the concept of an open-range internet 3

Posted in business and convergent technologies, in the News by Timothy Platt on November 23, 2014

This is my third posting to a series on the contentious topic of net neutrality (see Part 1 and Part 2.)

At the end of Part 2, I briefly discussed public interest in and concern stemming from what has come to be seen as a corporate-initiated challenge to net neutrality as that term is generally and at least popularly understood. The issues that underlie net neutrality, as briefly noted in that posting, extend far beyond the scope of any proposal on the part of internet access providers to offer premium online access to select preferred customers, and significantly less than that by comparison to all else. But that challenge to open unbiased online access and to unfettered information and resource accessibility has become the touchstone issue for public concern over net neutrality challenges per se. And as a measure of impact that this set of issues is seen to hold for the public at large, and certainly in the United States, I noted in Part 2 the unprecedentedly high volume of comments and statements submitted by members of the public as well as by businesses and organizations of all types to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in anticipation of their 2014 hearings on corporate proposals to offer tiered bandwidth and service access.

• The FCC’s rulings that will come out of these hearings have come to be seen – still anticipated as of this writing, and by a great many
• As a pivotal turning point in determining whether net neutrality can be sustained as a safeguard of the open and generally accessible internet
• And for both those who upload and provide online information and services and for those who view and download and use those services,
• And for all who would enter into transactions and interactive relationships of any and all types online.
• And when net neutrality is viewed through the context of preferential access to bandwidth, with the less preferred relegated to being the less connected, and when even routine and basic connectivity is more and more data-intensive and bandwidth-requiring, this public perception – this public concern is fully understandable.

I raised the question in Part 2 as to whether even severe bias on the part of online access provider businesses could stifle internet openness and accessibility long-term, and I at least suggested there that the internet and its global community would prevail. But that is a general and long-term likelihood only. Any real challenge to net neutrality could not help but cause real harm to many as individuals and as specific groups, and in any conceivable real world here-and-now or short-term.

And I find myself going back to those roughly one million public comments submitted to the US FCC in anticipation of their upcoming hearings on these proposals from major online service providers. And I turn to consider the fuller range of voices that seek to speak out in this and have a say in decisions reached, and to the question of whose voices are actually heard out of all of those comments, position statements and briefs.

I write here of corporate and industry-backed lobbying and lobbyists as much as I do of public outreach and grassroots lobbying in this, and of the impact of money and influence on essentially all legislative, regulatory or judicial system decision-making processes as they take place in the United States, and certainly in 2014 and through any readily foreseeable future. And any discussion of this, and certainly as the net neutrality debate plays out in the United States, has to begin with the Supreme Court and with its decisions as to what a company is.

• A business is an organizational entity, whether legally formally incorporated or not and regardless of size and by essentially any meaningful metrics of scale (e.g. headcount and other measures of organizational size, volume of sales, of revenue generated, of profits generated and so on.)
• A business, critically importantly for this discussion, is also in an increasing number of ways legally considered to be a person too. And it is in this context that the relative level and reach of citizen/person and of business-entity voice and influence play out in governmental decision-making processes. And it is here that the relative merits of these competing affected voices will be weighed as the FCC seeks out a balanced decision in its rulings.

So this discussion becomes one of analyzing and thinking through the relative voice and influence of these two basic categories of constituent in this country as both seek to influence and shape regulatory decision making that affects all. And this decision, critically in that regard, hinges on what it means for a company to be a person, and on what new rights are now included in shaping large corporations’ voices.

I was initially planning on briefly discussing that set of issues in this posting, and on also at least beginning a discussion of Facebook’s plans for shaping more global online access and connectivity into its image, and certainly for developing countries and their citizens. But as I started developing this portion of this series, I realized that was too ambitious a goal to squeeze into any one single series installment. Basically, all I seek to do here is to set the stage as I have been doing, above, for a fuller discussion of corporate personhood, what that means, and how it has changed and expanded through Supreme Court decisions under the Roberts Court, and how this expanded set of rights and legally permitted corporate powers are coming to shape both legislative and further judicial, and also regulatory decision making processes. I will delve in more detail into all of those issues in my next series installment and both for their impact within the United States and for their global impact as well. I will then go on to discuss Facebook and its globally expansive plans and activities as they serve to influence and even shape what we can expect of net neutrality in the years to come. Meanwhile, you can find this posting and related at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and at its Page 2 continuation. And I also include this in my In the News postings list.

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