By Jake Levine
The opinions expressed are his own.
The network neutrality / common carriage debate is one of the most important debates of our time. At stake is the freedom to innovate, the freedom to listen, and the freedom to speak. To date, arguments for or against common carriage have focused largely on the relationship between Internet service providers and content creators, but a new threat is emerging.
Companies like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have unlocked new ways for people to connect, curate, and consume. They have changed and continue to change how we interact with the web – how content is distributed, discovered, and delivered. But with the emergence of this new social layer comes a threat that rivals that posed by the great information monopolies of the 20th century – AT&T, the Radio Trust and the Motion Picture Patents Company, companies known for price gouging, anti-competitive behavior, and the stifling of innovation.
I recently finished Tim Wu’s “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empire.“ For anyone interested in network neutrality, this book is an incredible primer. Beyond presenting a thoughtful analysis and historical review of the information industry, Wu provides a compelling read – one might even call it a page-turner! If you haven’t yet, go buy it, and read it.
If you’re familiar with the basics of network neutrality, feel free to jump to my main argument below. If not, let’s start with Wu’s definition for common carriage:
At the heart of common carriage is the idea that certain businesses are either so intimately connected, even essential, to the public good, or so inherently powerful—imagine the water or electric utilities—that they must be compelled to conduct their affairs in a nondiscriminatory way.