The net neutrality debate took center stage again last week when the FCC called off attempts to negotiate a compromise with major Internet industry players in the wake of reports that Google and Verizon were conducting secret meetings on the side. When the discussion devolves to political buzzwords, though, it's wake up call to dig deeper.
The end of the FCC negotiations is actually good news. What the FCC should do is execute its duties to oversee the industry without apologizing or asking permission. The FCC negotiations sought to compromise with the industry--the very nature of which implies that the agency would be making consessions in order to appease companies like Verizon and Comcast.
Negotiation and compromise are cornerstones of the political process, but they should be conducted openly and involve all parties. The problem with the FCC efforts was that the closed-door meetings excluded most of the affected parties from the process.
A rational, impassioned debate presenting relevant facts and findings from both sides benefits all parties. Making sure that all points of view are considered, and then selecting the one that makes the most sense seems to be both the most fair--and ultimately the most effective--means of developing a policy like net neutrality that affects the country as a whole on so many levels.
The FCC is already engaged in that process by voting to approve a notice of inquiry seeking public feedback and opinion on its proposed "Third Way" compromise to partially reclassify Internet and broadband for more effective oversight. Verizon and Comcast can participate in this public debate openly with the rest of the nation rather than engaging in closed-door meetings that circumvent the process.
When one side abandons reason and resorts to fear-mongering and name-calling, it signals that it has no pertinent arguments to put forth. This vacuum of logic results in the side with no valid arguments aside from greed and self-interest reducing itself to declaring the opposing point of view socialist, or communist.
For an example of this ridiculous attempt to distract from the real debate, just read Rob Enderle's article on the state of net neutrality. It has the standard lack of relevant points and warped view of the few facts it contains. More importantly, it is filled with the standard fear-mongering buzz words of socialism and communism.
The dirty secret that the fear-mongering ignores is that the United States is already a balanced combination of capitalism and socialism. Calling it that evokes visceral Cold War emotions, but the reality is that some things lend themselves to socialism, and that corporations with a profit motive--and that answer to shareholders rather than the general public--are ill-suited to provide for the national infrastructure or the common good.
The country relies on the Internet just as it relies on a robust highway and rail system, education, or law enforcement and public safety. That doesn't mean the government needs to take over or own the Internet, but it does mean that it has an obligation to provide oversight for the common good--the very nature of why the FCC was created.
While you drive down the government-provided road on your way to drop the kids off at a government-provided school, and pull over to let the government-provided fire truck race past to save a family from a fire, consider what the motives might be for keeping government oversight out of the Internet and demonizing any attempt to do so by labeling it as "socialism".