OPINION

Google, Verizon and Avoiding the Communist Concept of Net Neutrality

Last week, there was uproar about a rumored secret negotiation between Google and Verizon that, if successful, would result in Google customers getting better bandwidth.

At the core of this controversy are three things: a lack of adequate action by the sitting administration; a lack of consistent definition of the concept of “Net neutrality,” and the communistic nature of the definition that appears to underlie this outrage.

Since this core concept of “equal to all” is fundamentally flawed and should be objectionable under the capitalistic model that currently maintains the U.S., I think this is worth discussing this week.

I’ll close with my product of the week: a speaker for your MP3 player that won’t get you killed if you use it while riding on a bike.

Communism vs. Socialism vs. Capitalism

The scary part about Communism isn’t its core economic concept — from each according to ability and to each according to need. That sounds eminently fair, particularly if you have a lot of needs and not a great deal of ability.

The scary part is that communism typically requires a major change in how the government is run, and there’s a tendency to want to kill whomever was running it before. There is no wonder that it makes those currently in power nervous.

A bigger problem for the rest of us is that it doesn’t seem to work very well.

Socialism is more benign, in that it operates within a capitalistic structure, where the government takes control of the resources. It’s more like “from each according to ability and to each according to deeds,” which at least suggests you’ll get more if you do more — but with the government in place to make sure there is no cheating.

Capitalism eliminates the controlling aspect of government and could be summarized as “you earn it, you own it.” Basically, government exists to ensure ownership and protect the owner.

We live in a constant state of conflict between these concepts. The first tends to unfairly favor those who don’t contribute much and penalize those who do, and it ignores the risk/reward nature of how people are motivated. However, it appears to take the best care of the least capable.

The second puts too much power in the hands of government officials and unions, and it can significantly stifle creativity and limit success. However, it also provides good balanced (relatively) protection over its citizens and natural resources.

Capitalism tends to provide the least individual and resource protection, but it offers the greatest opportunity for innovation and economic growth.

Netting this all out, with communism, the people collectively own everything; with socialism, the government controls everything regardless of ownership; and with capitalism, the people individually own everything.

You could argue that China is in the process of shifting from Communism to Socialism, and the U.S. is in the process of shifting from Capitalism to Socialism, and that communism sounds best to the least advantaged but sucks in practice.

Personally, I tend to favor capitalism but then I grew up here.

Net Neutrality and Making Things Worse

While the concept goes back to the 1860s, the term “Net neutrality” is new, and as I’ve already mentioned, the definition is far from consistent.

As it’s used in the discussion surrounding the alleged Google and Verizon negotiations, the term appears to suggest equal access to network bandwidth for all, and this overlays the current dispute over whether the FCC should regulate this mess. I would generally favor the FCC taking a heavier role, but given how the current administration screwed up healthcare reform, contributed to the BP disaster, and botched the stimulus, I’m more than a little worried that it will make this worse — not better.

So, to net it out, “Net neutrality” seems to mean — in the current context — equal access to all with no government oversight. When you pull out the government, you take out socialism, and when you remove the rights of ownership and place the benefits broadly on the least able to pay for them, you have communism.

It isn’t yet clear if socialism will work in the United States, but given that pure communism didn’t work in the USSR and China, it is doubly doubtful an equivalent concept — albeit with a vastly more acceptable “Net neutrality” name — will ever work.

Wrapping Up: Protecting a Critical Resource

I was sent a cartoon the other day that that asked “How will we compare Bush and Obama?” and then answered, “One was stupid the other did stupid things.” Strangely enough, I found it too close to the truth to be funny.

In hindsight, it seems President Bush couldn’t get much done, while Obama does a lot of stuff really badly. That wasn’t what “change I could believe in” meant to me. I didn’t want to jump from the frying pan into the fire — I wanted to stop burning.

The Internet is the critical resource that defines the U.S. It largely started here, the companies that most benefit from it — from Cisco to Microsoft — pay taxes and live here, and the Internet is how American citizens get access to the information we need to effectively carry out our lives. Much of what the country does to advance will require elimination of the current Internet bottlenecks, and quickly.

As a result, providing the necessary bandwidth should be one of the highest priorities, yet the U.S. lags on everything from security to bandwidth to access against countries like Singapore and Korea.

It is hard to blame Google and Verizon for trying to collectively address their own unique issues by hammering out a solution, given that the government can’t seem to even decide who will regulate the Internet — let alone what rules will be applied when it is regulated.

The concept of guaranteed class of service is critical to emerging technologies ranging from telepresence (used for things like remote medicine and to keep our sorry butts off planes) to onine gaming, like OnLive’s service. This is because there is far too little bandwidth to go around at the moment, and not dealing with the problem at all isn’t turning out to be the better path. Favoring a concept that, as defined, appears closer to communism than capitalism seems particularly whacked in the U.S., but maybe I’m just old fashioned.

In short, we shouldn’t be getting upset with Google and Verizon for trying to fix their problem. We should be getting upset at the U.S. government — both parties — for not giving Google and Verizon a better alternative.

Product of the Week: Tunebug Shake

Product of the Week

My wife likes to listen to her iPod when she is our riding her e+ electric bike and pulling the dog trailer. OK, that sounds too geeky even to me… In any case, she typically uses a headphone, which means she can’t hear the traffic around her, and she tends to like to weave in and out of traffic a bit.

That combination can certainly lead to a painful moment, and I’m sure my pups, if they could talk, would want me to find a better solution than headphones.

Tunebug Shake

Tunebug Shake

I sort of did with the Tunebug Shake, which mounts on top of your bike (or ski) helmet and provides you with tunes without covering your ears. I say “sort of,” because attaching this to my wife’s helmet was somewhat difficult, and getting an iPod to work with the built-in Bluetooth in the device is generally pointless (only works on the touch and my wife prefers the shuffle when she rides).

Fortunately, the device comes with a cable — which is no worse than a headset — but it really had me wishing either that Apple would work better with Bluetooth or that my wife would use a product that made better use of it.

It definitely works better with a mountain bike or ski helmet, because they provide a better mounting surface (on the website, that is the type of helmet Tunebug features).

Tunebug also has the Vibe, which sits on a table and can actually do a nice job of filling a small room with sound without requiring too much carry space (Tunebug gave me one of each to play with).

In the end, I think any product that can help make our loved ones safer is a natural for product of the week, and the Tunebug Shake clearly — with the right helmet — makes the cut.


Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.

11 Comments

  • I cannot think of a country where equal access to the roads, for instance, are not, to some extent, controlled by the government. (The cars people drive is a different matter).

    That is not communism, and neither is net neutrality.

  • Arguing that regulating "net neutrality" is a form of socialism or communism is getting way out of line, and is a sign that the author is spending too much time with too few people.

    .

    Communism always have been about violent overthrow, which is not the way we responsible Americans wish to modify our governments.

    .

    Socialism/Government versus Private Enterprise is usually about who is gonna boss who around. Arrogant people can infest either one and cause misery. Government is supposed to be open and transparent, which is something schemers and scammers detest, so they holler loud and long for Private Enterprise to make the rules, where they can run and ruin the business.

    .

    Notice the rumored negotiation between Google and Verizon was "secret" – is that in the public interest ? Which public interest are we even talking about, the interests of consumers or the interests of other businesses who need to use the services provided by either company ? Both companies are enormously rich, but no more enormously rich than are AT&T and Apple.

  • I usually enjoy this blog because I find it informative, but this is a real disappointment. You clearly know nothing about economics or politics, and have no understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of capitalism. No system is perfect, and the US is currently suffering acutely from having a form of capitalism that lacks effective social controls. That’s why our middle class has been disappearing for the last several decades while the wealth and income of the top 1% has exploded by two orders of magnitude over the same period. For starters, Socialism, Capitalism and Communism are not mutually exclusive systems, they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Your article reads like out-dated rhetoric from some Cold War propaganda pamphlet. Scandinavia, in particular has demonstrated how effectively socialism and capitalism can be combined to produce some of the most stable, successful and vibrant economies in the world, while we currently have something like 4 million people that have given up even looking for a job. Capitalism is great, but it has to have rules that keep the playing field level and insure a thriving middle class, which is the foundation of a stable and long-term viable economy. Left on its own, it quickly reduces the playing field to a handful of extremely rich people and turns the rest of us into indentured servants (which is happening as we speak — Google the Plutonomy memo leaked from Citi Group if you think I’m exaggerating). Net neutrality is one of the last places where the playing field is still at least somewhat even. Let’s see if we can’t keep it that way! Like Google doesn’t have enough control over the web already!!

  • It seems to me that the real conflict between the two different types of business models that Google and Verizon represent is at the heart of any conflict over any idea of net neutrality. You have Google that seeks to profit one way off of the internet which is content and then you have Verizon which handles the pipe line or gate way in which people access the net. Both need access to the general pipe line that is the net. So the real issue is the difference of business models. Both companies seem to recognize that fact, and as news reports today indicate both companies have reached a consensus as to how that conflict of business models ought to be resolved. Mr. Enderle was perhaps mistaken to compare the conflict between Communism and capitalism, but we all make mistakes.

  • The writer starts his article by screaming about socialism and Communism. Then he conflates Net Neutrality with property rights. Hah! The writer is a propagandist, not a pundit. So, why in the heck was this stupid article published?

  • Republicans hate the Internet because Republicans hate truth.

    I can just picture Republicans sitting in front of their computers with some angry Fox news or Rush blaring in the background while they seethe over every bit of good news that finds its way in to the information sources they perceive as loyal to their misconceived caricatures of reality.

    There is no such thing as a conservative. I understand the frustrations of everyone who wanted Obama to fix the world in 365 days, but I do NOT understand how anyone could be so illogical to think that Obama is an evil person bent on the destruction of this country.

    There are people who vote for people that call themselves conservatives but really what you get is a bunch of theocrats who try to consolidate money and power to an elite group of ideological zealots who are willing to commit intense acts of hypocrisy simply to feel as if they have "won", like it’s all some kind of game.

    These toe tapping tools will stop at nothing to force your children learn myth in science classrooms such as ID or that the Earth was made 6000 years ago. These fake so called Republicans will vow that gays should not be able to live as non-gays do in our country, while simultaneously being gay in the closet. These people like to hate things. Fighting is what feels normal. These people are angry and angry people are easily exploited.

    If you prefer a government that governs the least that’s exactly what you are going to get. I don’t believe there can be an intelligent debate with toe tapping Republican propagandist hacks. Hacks don’t want to talk, they just want to be mad about something and government is an easy target. During the Bush days, the hacks were mad at Saddam, for the wrong reasons but it didn’t stop them from exploiting the people into supporting a two trillion dollar tax payer funded unjust war did it? 4000 Americans and 100,000 (and counting) innocent Iraqi civilians died. Republican leaders said, "hey be mad at this", now they are saying, "hey be mad at this".

    The fatalistic tragedians of our nation fall in line. The only thing we are conservative with is the use of our intelligence and the application of ethics.

  • All the advocates of "neutrality" scream foul when these companies speak of using THEIR property as they see fit and shout the government should stop them.

    What constitutional power is granted to congress (and its subsidiary the FCC) under article 1 section 8 of the constitution? None. And not that this is the fundamental principle that should stop our government from seizing property like this, but it brings a lot of other shenanigans into perspective.

    If these people think it’s acceptable for an arbitrary government office to seize even partial control over another property then this country has hit a new low.

    These companies created and owned all of this and now some thieves want to control it, who here thinks this will make things run better? Who here thinks taking control of another property is a proper thing to do? Do we praise thieves who during the day are awesome investors and can spend your money better?

    Gm was bad enough and that company went voluntarily. The banks went kicking and screaming when told they would eat the government handouts (the viable ones anyways) and now these looters want to control the internet…

    If ATT doesn’t want me talking about Capitalism on their network I’ll go to Verizon or sprint, Tmobile, Time Warner, Comcast, Earthlink and ON and ON and ON!!!

    But if the government runs it all where can I go then(and if they say what goes THEY DO RUN IT)? I smell socialized internet and it smells just as bad, if not worse, than socialized medicine.

  • This article seems to be more on macro-economics than on the concept of Net Neutrality. How does Google and Verizon’s move affect your readers? Do you even know?

  • This is the silliest thing I’ve read in a month. A discussion of capitalism, socialism and communism? Really? Maybe the writer should read some history and see what happens to infrastructures without regulation – like the railroads & Rockefeller, or the electric companies and monopolies, and… well, there’s more, but I suspect it’s wasted breath.

    And the part about the administration screwing up health reform? To laugh. What has the opposition offered except, you know, opposition? And somehow they contributed to the BP disaster? Really? What is this, the Rush Limbaugh program?

    This is nonsense. I would expect better from a publication that calls itself technewsworld. There’s no tech, no news, and a very skewed view of the world here. Good luck with that.

  • Mr. Enderle’s knowledge of communism and socialism is quite ludicrous, but at least he admits it "… I grew up here [in the US]." So, I wouldn’t believe the first half of his article; take it from me, who grew up "there," in the socialism. That’s one. Two, there is no a single bit (punt intended) of technical jargon in his article, supposedly on a tehnical subject. Now, if I were to replace Net Neutrality with Potatoes or Corn, the article will read just the same. I don’t see why Mr Enderle’s political bias (yes, got it, you don’t like Obama) needs to be expressed here.

  • net neutrality is -not- communism, as if that were a bad thing anyhow. net neutrality is the -lack- of the ability of companies to determine who gets bandwidth based on affiliation and preference. everyone gets equal rights on the lines. this is, in fact, the way it was prior to august 5th 2005, when the FCC reclassified internet services as ‘information services’ rather than ‘telecommunication services’ – basically making the internet a product instead of a utility, like electricity. this means that companies can provide higher accessibility to the highest bidder, or whoever they are politically affiliated with. can you imagine if our highways only allowed traffic that is profitable to local companies to travel at the full 75mph, while everyone else was limited to 30mph? this is what you are promoting. also, keep in mind that your public schools, police, fire dept, etc are all socialised. go educate yourself, you pathetic fool.

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