Often when looking at debates, whether we should have more privacy or more security, whether we should have more copyright or less copyright, or even whether we should have more nuclear technology or less nuclear technology it is always about the negatives and positives on both sides. However looking at the causes, of especially the negative sides, is often neglected. We tend to deal with the problems on the surface level, while not even attempting to look at the problems from a deeper systemic level. A common held assumption is that technology is neutral and that the way we use it is a reflection of how our society operates and what is valued in that particular paradigm. In this short essay this train of thought will be elaborated on to try and understand why the net has never been neutral and will never be neutral, as long as we do not look at society as a whole which dictates how we use science and technology. While these topics are way more complex than described here, the train of thought presented might shed another light on the problem and therefore the solution but of course digging deeper into the information itself is required in order to understand the complexity of the problem completely.
If society reflects our use of technology and thereby the net as well, we have to look at how society operates if we want to try and understand the problem of net neutrality. If we look at society as a whole we see that it is basically government by the monetary market system. This system when you look at its core foundation is based on scarcity, meaning the idea that there is not enough to go round, at least not for everybody. With this inherent scarcity there is always need for competition in order to acquire the resources to survive and prosper. This fundamental aspect of competition is thus structurally reinforced by the system and perpetuates the basic premise of capitalism.
The main problem is that in a system which is based on scarcity and competition people will deviate towards what works and fraud and corruption is what works in this system to get the upper hand. Fortunately for us we have regulations and legislations in place which keep these phenomena at bay. The great flaw however is that money influences regulation and the companies with more money thus have more power. So the reason why we still see the injustice and inhumanity in society is not because of some flaw of human nature, a corrupt institution or a failure of policy it is mostly because of the structural flaw of scarcity and competition, not because people are greedy but because it is a reinforced mechanism of survival. People will not behave differently as long as there is no structural reinforcement to do so.
Combining the arguments of technology as a reflection of our society and the view that society is based on competition for survival, we can then begin to analyse why the status of net neutrality is as it is. Net neutrality is stated to be treating packages in an equal way. This means that there is no restriction to what people can put on the net and what people can access on the net. It is basically the ideal of what the internet should be according to most people.
In this day and age we moved from, gold, to oil, to data as one of the highest commodities. This means that through the internet with all its services you can make a lot of money. Naturally this means that market competition is fierce and regulation/legislation will be put in place in order to keep the ‘competition tactics’ at bay. But again these rules and regulations can be influenced by money as well in order to work best for the telecommunication branch, governments and other big companies. The forming of a monopoly and blocking out of competitors on the net is thus much easier. The same can be done for opinions, information and political viewpoints. The impairment of net neutrality is thus a way of controlling the ‘once free’ internet and this is even a natural outgrowth on a system based on competition.
Towards Net Neutrality
If net neutrality with all its benefits is thus to become reality we cannot look for some rules or legislations to be put in place as society and thus the net, is prone to have these legislations benefit the prosperous companies. Looking for solutions has to be done by looking at society itself, looking at the core of the problem which is scarcity and hence competition. In order to resolve this we might need to look more towards a system which is based upon and supports abundance and where the societal competition could be lessened and collaboration and neutrality could be perpetuated. Open source projects would be a prime example of this. Extending this viewpoint even further using the open source idea could realize the abundance required but for that to happen a system and value change will have to happen as well.
Berkowitz, M., Joseph, P., & McLeish, B. (2014). The Zeitgeist Movement Defined Realizing a New Train of Thought
Eli the Computer Guy – Death of Net Neutrality? : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ex5ZPWrjlhU
Hackett, E. J. (2008). The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies.
Peter Joseph – The Market Economy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0ca1AYi32Q
What is net neutrality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCUg5A-ZAw0