23 May 2006

Ethics, Responsibility and Net Neutrality

For a non-ninja explanation of the network neutrality issue, have a look at this video - The Death of the Internet:

What gets me about this video is Ed Whitacre, CEO of the "new AT&T" (which seems to be more like its old fashioned telephone company roots than the new-fangled Internet company pre-merger AT&T had become, likely because of Whitacre's SBC corporate culture). Whitacre says, "Net neutrality? I don't even know what that means!" My question: Is the man really ignorant, or is he choosing to be ignorant in order to set up his own, self-serving rhetoric? I really hope it's the former, that the man is just plain ignorant, because the implications of the latter are truly frightening.

You see, a person who chooses ignorance - that is, literally to ignore the key and salient issues and effects surrounding, and resulting from, a business decision - is a dangerous man. He is a person who willfully disregards the societal outcomes of decisions in favour of personal benefit, or benefit to his company, or (most likely) both. Whether it is the telecom industry, the oil industry, health care providers, tobacco companies, gun manufacturers or soft drink marketers (compare this and this) - willful and deliberate ignore-ance of inconvenient truths is unethical and irresponsible - for plain-speaking folk, simply wrong. What's worse is the unfortunate reality that ignore-ance is a contagious disease: It is passed via lobbyists from corporate executives to legislators.

Don't get me wrong: This is not an anti-corporate screed. Rather, it is a call for the type of honest disclosure that comprises effect-ive theory, that is, the active engagement with, and explicit articulation of, the totality of effects created through business decisions and legislative agendas.

By the way, if you live in the U.S., please do us all a favour and sign the petition over at Save the Internet. Thanks!
(Thanks Gianluca!)
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Richard Bennett said...

OK, so what is net neutrality? I can give you at least four definitions. As it's not a term of engineering or of law, you can define it any old way you want.

Mark said...

Precisely the point, Richard. Aside from the emerging common usage in response to Whitacre's initial provocative remarks about wanting to charge Google or deprioritize their packets because they don't buy their bandwidth from him (I assume you watched the video), choosing a "spun" definition that is only self-serving runs counter to an ethos consistent with a UCaPP world.