The Invisible Homepage of Economics

Via Boingboing: This is how the world ends, not with a bang, but with a sneaky, whimpering attempt at a New World Order.

At least that’s the vibe coming from proponents of net neutrality, who have been piqued by the British government’s proposed amendments to the European Union’s Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications (that’s net neutrality in shorthand). The E.U. will consider those later this month. From IPtegrity.com:

The amendments, if carried, would reverse the principle of end-to-end connectivity which has underpinned not only the Internet, but also European telecommunications policy, to date.

… it is not only restricting the subscriber who is paying for the service. The effect will be that it renders invisible the millions of other websites that are not on the ‘just a few’ list.

Net neutrality proponents are worried about information superhighway robbery, saying the amendments are in direct conflict with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, which gives everyone the right “to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”

As for British officials, they’re echoing the line made by some telecommunications companies and their henchmen, saying that Internet service providers (ISPs) should be able to control users’ access in the same way cable television stations deal with their subscribers. The ISPs also say they want to be able to balance supply and demand through traffic management—which is one way to put the reins on a cyber-crazed downloaders.

Confused? You’re not alone. As Reason.tv and Reason.com Editor in Chief Nick Gillespie notes: “Is there any debate that gets things more fundamentally ass-backwards than the current battle over ‘net neutrality'”?

In a nanobyte, net neuters want everything to be open, available, and free. ISPs want to be able to charge for their services. Who’s to say we can’t have it both ways?

Oh. Right. The European Commission. Here’s a headline from the Commission’s website:

EU Telecoms Reform – One Market for Consumers

Ummm, why does that sound so ominous?

Proponents of net neutrality are barking up the wrong blog post if they want a free and open Internet. They’re asking the E.U. to prevent businesses from becoming the Internet’s supreme rulers. But for an unrestricted, unregulated web that accommodates individual needs and quirks, a giant governing body is the last group one should appeal to.

Net neuters are worried about abuses by ISPs. But as Reason contributor Julian Sanchez argued in 2006, “hasty regulation that responds to hypothetical abuses may also prevent us from discovering benefits we haven’t yet hypothesized.”

Net neuters can surf easy, too, knowing they’ll still be able to get free shit. Pirate sites pop up all the time, and if the newspaper industry is any indication, not every ISP will be able to convince users that their stuff is worth a Paypal dime.

The best thing for all the parties involved would be to leave the Internet to those who know what they’re doing, namely, individuals.

Two E.U. committees will vote on the proposed legislation on March 31 before it goes to the European Parliament on April 22.

For more Reason coverage of net neutrality, try this link (for free!).

[Original “Hit & Run” post available here.]

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