My soon-to-be hometown newspaper, the Star Tribune, has run a story on net neutrality that makes the complex subject comprehensible to non-geeks. Not perfect, but a pretty good model for the hardworking activists promoting net neutrality in Congress. The story’s “lede” paints a nice picture:
Imagine if the Internet were like cable TV.
You pay $40 a month to Time Warner or Comcast, and you get a menu of 80 websites to visit.
Want to go to a site devoted to Japanese anime cartoons? Sorry, that’s not on the menu. Looking for that crazy blog about the history of matchbook covers? No longer available — or so slow to load it’s not worth your while.
That scenario could become real, some Internet mavens say, unless Congress acts quickly to preserve freedom of the Web. A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has opened the door to greater corporate control of the Internet, and big business is ready to walk through it.
I don’t think AT&T’s attempt at a competing analogy works very well:
“Net neutrality proponents would actually limit choices and options for Internet users,” Ed Whitacre, chief executive officer of AT&T, said in a statement. “They say it is unfair for Internet users and content providers to pay different prices for different levels of speed, reliability and security.
“It’s like saying we should add no more lanes to a highway that is increasingly congested.”
That road example is just silly. To be accurate you have to add that access to the new lanes requires payment of a premium toll, while the rest of the traffic remains clogged.