Weinberger’s Net Neutrality Gaffe

A gaffe is when a politician accidentally says what he really thinks. Net neutrality advocate David Weinberger committed one recently when he wrote:

…I recently spent a day�sponsored by an activist think tank�with a dozen people who understand Net tech deeply, going through exactly which of the 496 permutations would constitute a violation of Net neutrality. Caching packets within a particular application area but not according to source? Caching application-based non-cached application-based packets? Saying “Hi” to all passing packets, but adding, “Howya doin’?” to only the ones you like? Patting all packets on the back but refusing to buy some lunch? The whole thing makes my brain hurt

I put that quote into Wikipedia’s Net Neutrality entry, and now Weinberger’s crying foul:

FWIW, I agree that the paragraph that cites me should be edited out. It is unencyclopedic. It also is used to make a point that it in fact does not support. The fact that it’s challenging to work out the precise application of NN in some instances doesn’t mean that the meaning of the principle itself is unclear. It’s tough to figure out exactly how to apply, say, affirmative action, gay rights, or the end-to-end principle, but it’d be highly misleading to start an article on them by saying the principles are unclear. It’s the nature of principles to require thought, argument and politics in their application. So, I hope someone removes that paragraph.

The fact of the matter is that nobody knows what net neutrality is, how to detect it, and how to regulate it, so the whole matter of laws protecting it is premature. Weinberger accidentally told the truth, and now he doesn’t want it to get out. There are plenty of people who think net neutrality is a great thing, but that we don’t know enough about it to regulate it; Doc Searls and Tom Evslin, for example. But the Wikipedia crowd isn’t real keen on sharing that point of view with the public.

That’s the way it goes.

2 thoughts on “Weinberger’s Net Neutrality Gaffe”

  1. By your definition, it’s only a gaffe if it was unintentional. But I fully intended to say what I said. I’m not in the least embarrassed about my post. There’s nothing unexpected, embarrassing or revelatory about it.

    Every principle requires argument and discussion to be applied; that’s built into the nature of principles. Your line of reasoning would lead us to conclude that, for example, every single amendment to the Constitution is without sense or meaning because each has a long history of debate and disagreement about how exactly to apply it. Here’s an analogy:

    Me: I just came back from a day-long meeting with extremely smart people about how exactly to apply the principle of free speech. Does it cover campaign donations? Pornographic political commentary? My brain hurts!

    You: Aha! What a gaffe! At long last one of the proponents of free speech has admitted that no one knows what it is, how to detect it, and how to regulate it.

    Well, Richard, I’m for free speech and I’m for Net neutrality. I know what each of them mean, and I’m happy to engage in honest discussion about how exactly they apply.

  2. OK, so tell us what NN is, how to detect violations of it, and how to regulate it.

    * For example, does NN require carriers to give VoIP traffic priority over BitTorrent? Does it allow them to?

    * Does NN allow carriers to offer gamers a special service that ensures them low latency and high data volumes? Does it allow them to collect a fee for this service? Why or why not?

    * Does NN allow Korea Telecom to block VoIP on their 100 megabit/sec fiber network? If not, why to NN advocates complain that US broadband is less good than Korean broadband?

    * What infrastructure has ever been built in the US that wasn’t funded by the sale of services? Can anybody in the world sell natural gas over the gas company’s pipes?

    * Do you like the idea of fiber to the home? How do you propose to pay for it, in terms of a real-world system?

    It should be easy for you to answer these questions.

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