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Still think "net neutrality" is no big thing? (update)
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, August 09, 2007

The net neutrality issue has been relegated to a background issue here recently. But AT&T managed to bring it to the fore in a big way this last weekend:
Over the weekend AT&T gave us a glimpse of their plans for the Web when they censored a Pearl Jam performance that didn’t meet their standard of “Internet freedom.”

During the live Lollapalooza Webcast of a concert by the Seattle-based super-group, the telco giant muted lead singer Eddie Vedder just as he launched into a lyric against President George Bush. The lines — “George Bush, leave this world alone” and “George Bush find yourself another home” were somehow lost in the mix.

“What happened to us this weekend was a wake up call, and it’s about something much bigger than the censorship of a rock band,” Pearl Jam band members stated in a release following the incident.
Yes it should be a wakeup and when the subject of net neutrality comes up, it should be the perfect example of why it is important. You can go to the link to see the video of Pearl Jam being silenced.

Look, I'm not a big fan of political agendas being a part of a music concert (well, unless the concert is a part of a political event, of course). I like the 'shut up and sing' philosophy that has a performer or performers keep their politics private and off the stage. But if they do decide to include it, that's their right (just as I can refuse to patronize them if they make a habit of it, or walk out of the performance if it irritates me sufficiently).

What I like even less, however, is an entity such as AT&T making decisions like that for me.

AT&T's reaction? Well according to an inquiry by Pearl Jam, they didn't say it was a technical glitch. Instead they passed it off on a "mistake" by their "content monitor".

Content monitor?

Yes friends, a "content monitor":
AT&T spokeswoman Tiffany Nels said the company goofed. Its Blue Room website is open to Internet users of all ages, so it tries to block "excessive profanity" from the broadcasts. It hires contractors to monitor the performances, and the broadcasts are delayed slightly to enable monitors to bleep off-color material. But those monitors aren't supposed to edit songs, just the stage patter between them, Nels said. "It's not our policy" to censor performances, Nels said, "and we regret the error." She added, "There was no profanity. It was a mistake."
It's not their policy, but the can and they did.
Indeed. AT&T routinely rails against Net Neutrality as a “solution without a problem.” They say Net Neutrality regulations aren’t necessary because they wouldn’t dare interfere with online content.
And yet, apparently, they did.
AT&T’s vision of a better Internet – “Your World Delivered” — is not one that is shared by the more than 1.5 million people who have spoken out in favor of a neutral, affordable and accessible Internet for everyone. For us the Internet isn’t about one company delivering our world. It’s about simply offering a high-speed connection at reasonable and competitive rates — and then getting out of our way.
Exactly. AT&T, keep your broadband up and affordable and stay the hell away from deciding what I may or may not see or hear. As for the rest of us, thank AT&T - they finally demonstrated why Net Neutrality is important and isn't a 'solution without a problem'.

UPDATE: An emailer says that the NN folks are being "deeply misleading" on this:
The NN crowd is being deeply, deeply misleading on this. What AT&T (actually, a subcontractor, who they were paying to handle one of their websites) did was censor the content of material on their own website. While this was (genuinely) a mistake and contrary to AT&T’s practices, it has *nothing to do with net neutrality*. The Blue Room website is AT&T’s own property. Complaining about their censorship – intentional or not – of material on their own website is equivalent to complaining that QandO sometimes censors commenters. AT&T has the absolute moral and legal right to censor anything they please on their own website.

Indeed, AT&T had been contacted and was working to correct the error and put up the PJ song uncensored on the website yesterday, but Pearl Jam went ahead and made a fuss before it was done.

Net Neutrality is a complicated issue, but NN proponents generally say that carriers shouldn’t be allowed to tell content providers what they can and cannot provide. Yet, the Net Neutrality coalition is trying to tell AT&T what content they have to provide – not on their networks – but on their own private website.
That does indeed make it a different kettle of fish and, perhaps, an Emily Litella moment.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

I thought Net Neutrality was about not having the government tell internet companies how they sell their services and at what speeds. I had no idea it had anything to do with someone pushing a mute button.

I’m also tired of curse words being edited and changed in movies when they play on TV. Can we get a Cable TV Neutrality law as well? (And no one mention Comedy Central has been playing unedited movies late nights on weekends, that just confuses the righteous political argument!)
Written By: abw
At&T owns the pipeline. If the government owns the pipeline instead, like the way the FCC owns the airwaves, shouldn’t we expect more censorship?
Written By: Jimmy the Dhimmi
The "Blue Room" is not "the Internet", it is a content portal, and just as a broadcast station may edit the content it broadcasts, a portal content provider can edit the content they stream.

If this were hosted another content provider on the web, that content provider would have made the call on whether to edit the stream or not. If The DeathStar edited the content in someone else’s portal, that would be different, though internet providers regularly shut people down for violations of their content T’s and C’s.

This is not a case of The DeathStar just censoring random content streaming through the web, this was content provided through their own branded portal.

Not that I approve of what they did, but it has nothing to do with net neutrality. Net neutrality is the concept of providers, like The Deathstar, having the right to discriminate for profit, basically by giving class of service advantages to those who pay for it, and varying levels of best efforts to no efforts to those who don’t. I think the people who OWN the networks are a bit frustrated that folks like GOOGLE have been making billions while the carriers are cutting and scrimping to make a buck, and they think they should be the one’s who decide how they run and charge for use of THEIR OWN networks.

I figure this is something for the market to work out, not for the government to tell companies how they MUST charge for their service.

But hey, I’m just a liberal, what do I know about what people should be able to do with their own property.

Net neutrality is rent control for the internet.

Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
Uh, yeah, that’s what the emailer said, but I do appreciate you repeating it.
Written By: McQ
So, just to be clear, we can continue to think Net Neutrality is no big thing?
Written By: abw
So, just to be clear, we can continue to think Net Neutrality is no big thing?
Oh heavens no ... but you can think this bruhaha is no big thing.
Written By: McQ
’Net Neutrality’ is merely a bad "joke".

I cannot EVER even possibly purchase "Levi’s blue jeans" at my local Wal-Mart.

Thus, we obviously NEED "Blue-jean neutrality"!

Because I couldn’t possibly believe that any "provider" could ever possibly choose to limit my options- or even possibly choose a different "pricing/ brand strategy" other than my preference in executing their business plan!

If they did?... we’d probably need a law!

Meanwhile, us ’libertarians’ are quite happy to let "the market" decide...
Written By: fletch
URL: http://
I’ll continue to think NN is "no big thing", or rather "Google trying to rent-seek on the ISPs’ dime by either turning off QoS or getting the same effect by giving it to everyone".

("If everyone has QoS, nobody does.")

Written By: Sigivald
URL: http://
If the number of available US websites on the internet falls by a factor of 20 as pipeline owners start charging non-bandwidth-determined rates, or if anyone who wants to avoid paying 20-fold rates has to click "yes" to being told what to write or (perhaps more likely) what not to write, people will regret not paying attention to Net Neutrality.

Sure, AT&T can do what they want with their website, in theory, but if AT&T owns 30% of the internet in the future, you could quite easily start seeing a lot of harassment for certain kinds of free speech.
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://

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