Sunday, March 8, 2015

Smokey Shott Clueless About Net Neutrality

Our local newspaper, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, employs a Glenn Beck wannabe to "write" a Thursday column. This waste of good page space is an endless rant against government overreach, Democrats, liberals in general, the EPA and Barack Obama. Most of the time, James "Smokey" Shott (who is published only because his family founded the paper decades ago) relies on the Heritage Foundation and other right wing sites for the supposed facts he references.

His most recent kook-rant was an anguished hand-wringing over the FCC's net neutrality vote. According to Shott, net neutrality will be the downfall of the Internet - read his tear-filled meltdown here.

After I got over my laughing fit, I fired off a letter to the editor and took Shott to school on various points he mentioned in his weepy column. Of course, it came as no surprise to me when it never appeared in the paper's print edition or online.

This is their practice - if you write in and accuse the government of setting up FEMA camps, or say Obama is the antiChrist, the editorial board will gleefully publish your screed for their dwindling readership to see. Should you take the newspaper to task for publishing nonsense under their masthead, your letter vanishes into a black hole.

My blog isn't a beehive of activity but it probably has more readers than the newspaper at this point, so in the public interest I reproduce my letter below. (grin)

As happens all too often in his weekly rant, Smokey Shott recently wrote about something he knows nothing about except what his far right sources tell him.

The Internet has ALWAYS informally operated under the net neutrality philosophy, reclassifying it as a telecommunications utility will ensure it continues to do so.

If Shott had bothered to do some actual research instead of just copying and pasting from whatever conservative website he visited, he'd know Net Neutrality simply forbids Internet service providers from blocking or slowing the traffic of their rivals or from taking unfair advantage of their large market share to charge websites extra for priority traffic speeds. That's pretty much it.

The net neutrality rules prevent a large Internet service provider like Comcast or Verizon from deciding whether to allow faster downloads of certain sites, protecting entrepreneurs and small websites trying to compete with large companies, and creating​​​​​​​​​ more options for consumers searching for new products and services online.

The government won't be stepping in to tell ISPs where to build out their networks or what they can charge the consumer - that's all conservative claptrap.

Net Neutrality ensures your ISP can't charge you a premium if you watch movies online, or charge the service providing you the movie. (Of course, if you go over your allotted monthly data, your ISP has every right to charge you for the overage.)

Do you know what truly stifles competition in the broadband marketplace? Regulations that preclude such; states making sweetheart deals with big providers that give them exclusivity over a territory. (That's why you don't see Suddenlink in Bluefield, or Comcast in Princeton.) While not a part of Net Neutrality, the FCC is at this moment considering regulations that would trump state laws and allow cities and towns to build their own competing Internet services or invite in smaller competitors.

Back to the topic at hand: Shott wants you to believe net neutrality is a solution without a problem but that's just plain wrong. ISPs would love to shake down content providers like Netflix, Google and Amazon for the right to travel on their networks, that's what the "Internet fast lane" concept a few years ago was all about.

The big guys don't care about you and me; that's painfully obvious from the high rates US consumers pay in contrast to the rest of the modernized world when it comes to broadband access. While Net Neutrality doesn't open the door to more competition, it's wrong to say it would stifle it. Net Neutrality does not even address the issue of competition in the marketplace, it merely says ISPs have to play fair with you and me and the companies whose services we access over their networks.

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