Thanks to the solid efforts of the FDL community, we have some excellent analogies encapsulating what’s at stake in the fight for Net Neutrality. Now it’s time to narrow them down to the ones we think are the simplest and clearest. We have very little time to inspire people in our local communities to persuade the Senate to vote for the Snowe-Dorgan bill.
When Mike McCurry published his insulting critique of bloggers and Net Neutrality on the Huffington Post last month, his atrocious spelling (Pultizer Prize?) was enough to make me worry about him. But I really thought he lost his marbles when I noted the spectacular irony of a man making generalizations about his readers, when the very thing he was arguing against made his audience as diverse as humanly possible.
But he’s actually quite shrewd, or at least his organization is, because they understand the power of a simple analogy. It is his misleading cartoon ad appearing on sites like this, but it paints a simple picture for anybody open to its false conclusions.
Our analogies/explanations will have the advantage of being truthful, but they have to be just as easy to comprehend. Pick your favorites in the comments. Here they are, summarized by yours truly.
Toll booth: Without Net Neutrality, it could turn pieces of the Internet into toll roads. But they’ll be even worse because there’s nothing to stop the telecoms from making the regular lanes worse as opposed to the toll roads better. And you have to hope the places you want to go paid the toll, too.
Fast food: Without Net Neutrality, it could be as if you were on your way to your favorite burger joint, only to find that McDonald’s paid for all the roads in your neighborhood to come to them. Whoever has the most money decides what you get to see.
Cable choices: Without Net Neutrality, the Internet could be like cable television. They decide what you get to see. Even if you’re willing to pay for all the channels, the channels have to pay, too. Some channels simply aren’t available to you. How many cable companies can you choose from in your neighborhood?
Web phones: Without Net Neutrality, there is no reason the phone companies won’t make it harder for your web phone to work so you’ll choose their alternative. And they have no incentive to make theirs better since yours will always be worse.
Competitive information: Without Net Neutrality, there’s no reason the companies controlling your web access won’t deny access to information they don’t like. It already has happened in other countries (Telis).
Level playing field: Without Net Neutrality, your small business has a hard enough time competing with big companies or stores like Wal-Mart. How can you compete when even fewer people can access your business online? Isn’t there enough of a burden on America’s small businesses?
You will pay: Without Net Neutrality, the web sites you visit for shopping will have to pay to have you as an audience. Who do you think will ultimately pay for that? Prices will go up. It’s just another tax, but this time it’s corporate welfare.
UPS (Jeff Kuhn): Without Net Neutrality, they can make all the drivers pull over, not just to let an ambulance go by, but to let anybody with enough money zoom by while everybody else waits.
Productivity: Without Net Neutrality, American companies that rely on the Internet could see drops in productivity. They could be charged for things or denied services they now take for granted. We don’t need even more reasons to lose jobs to other countries, countries that have faster broadband and didn’t have to lose Net Neutrality to get it.
Tony Soprano: Without Net Neutrality, the companies that control the pipes can bully organizations into paying for better access. Access to an Internet that was built in part by taxpayer dollars.
Post Office: Without Net Neutrality, the Internet could be like a post office that charges you not for the weight of your mail, but for what you are sending and how much it’s worth to you. Or a post office that won’t deliver unless the recipient pays, too.
Municipality Myth: Without Net Neutrality, you can hold out hope for public Internet access in your hometown, right? The same Telecom bill being considered in the Senate makes it more difficult to do it and would give the companies the right to use the same publicly-funded infrastructure.
Better services: The telecoms say regulations make it difficult to offer great services, but if the government didn’t tell them to make it happen, you wouldn’t be able to keep your phone number even when changing companies or moving. Some communities in America might not even have phone lines. They want us to make a down-payment for the "future of the Internet" without any guarantees they’ll actually build it.
HMO: Without Net Neutrality, your Internet account could be like an HMO. Sometimes the things you need aren’t in the "preferred network." You don’t want corporations telling you what doctors to see. Why would you want them to tell you what services you can buy?
AOL, Compuserve: Closed online communities had their chance and could not compete with an open Internet. Do you want to go back to the old days?
No free lunch: The companies that own the fiber optic cable knew what they were getting into. Net Neutrality isn’t new; it’s been there from the beginning. They say content providers just want a free lunch, but they are paying, just like you, to get on the Internet.
Dark fiber is another issue that came up in the message thread several times, but this issue is complicated by the "last mile" aspect and wasn’t articulated in a way that anybody can understand. Feel free to elucidate this topic, or continue to add anything I might have missed in this thread.