Every time I dip a toe into the reality-distortion field that is Washington, DC, it make my head spin. I was just in Washington for an API seminar, and it happened again.
Washington has the world's largest collection of special-interest spinmeisters trying to warp the political agenda.
Wherever you go, there are TV commercials, newspaper ads, billboards, selling something that's ultimately targeted at Congress and the pseudolegislative machinery of regulatory bureaucrats. Nobody tries to sell ladies' underwear in the Washington Post any more. Instead, these these ads sell poison, depicting an alternate universe in which facts have been rewritten to the advantage of one power-hungry cartel or another.
As I dissected a Comfort Inn waffle for breakfast I encountered a big display ad in the Washington Post, and later as I flipped on the TV I was hit by a video ad with the same message from a mysterious "public interest" group: Those evil people at Google are conspiring to rob all of us by keeping us from having more video choices just when Santa Claus was going to crawl through our broadband connections with lots of new goodies. Google wants consumers to pay! Google is a giant California technomonster (cut to a photo of the sprawling Googleplex headquarters). Stop Congress from regulating the Internet!
I think I know who's picking my pocket, and it ain't Google.
It's the big cable and telcos that are behind this fake grassroots movement, spreading this lie in an attempt to stop net neutrality.
Until now, the Internet has been a fast, basically unmetered, level playing field where new ideas can be easily tried. Ideas like Skype (free telephony), YouTube (free video sharing), Shoutcast (free audio channels).
The cable and telcos want to be able to selectively discriminate against content providers that do not pay tribute or become business partners.
These price-gouging monopolists are no friend of you and me. They want the "freedom" to selectively degrade certain Internet services, especially realtime streaming media such as audio, video and telephony unless the content providers pony up and pay for guaranteed performance.
For entrepreneurial, individual and peer-to-peer multimedia, this means death. And that death is to the advantage of cable and telcos, which have their own programming and telephony services they want to sell you.
The net effect would be to turn back the clock to a pre-Internet era when a few powerful corporations controlled what we could see and how we could see it. That's not hyperbole. It's the goal. If you don't believe the cable giants are against individual publishing, read your broadband terms of service.
Content providers do pay for Internet service, as do consumers, and the cable and telcos aren't going to stop charging for broadband. They just want even more money.
How can they do that? Isn't the Internet huge, and competitive?
The Internet is very big, but the cable companies -- and it is primarily cable companies who provide the "last mile" broadband connections into the home -- have control of key choke points.
If they are allowed to demand tribute from everyone who wants to offer fat content or provide streaming services to their customers, it will come at the expense of every individual who tries to watch, listen, or talk on the net.