Thursday, July 17, 2014


We live in a bizarro world sometimes.

Where the truth is often bedfellows with deception. Grey everywhere. Slippery slopes at every turn. It's the natural by-product of an imperfect world, run by imperfect people.

But there are boundaries, somehow. Somewhere in the mire, there is a line. It's that point we reach where our entire being reacts in opposition, 'no, no, that's not right.'

Nothing triggers this reflex like blatant hypocrisy.

When a political leader tells us all we need to stop relying on handouts, to 'pull ourselves up by our bootstraps', only to allow his child to receive a dubious scholarship.

When a business leader claims that the general public has an entitlement culture, yet secretly expects special tax concessions for her businesses.

We react, vehemently.

And such is the hypocrisy of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) around the globe.

Again and again, ISPs have claimed no functional ownership of the internet. It's how they avoided copyright infringement claims for the piracy of their users.

'We are not responsible!', they said. 'We lay the pipe. What people put in the pipe has nothing to do with us.'

The landmark case, between ISP 'iiNet' and the 'Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT)', went all the way to the High Court; the most powerful judicial body in Australia.
And, the ISPs won.

Now, before you accuse me of inflating the importance of this one case, I am aware that this was only one legal precedent in Australia.

What you should be aware of, however, is that the iiNet case was being pursued by unseen global entities. A US Diplomatic Cable, leaked by Wikileaks, revealed that 'although the case against iiNet was filed by a number of local (Australian) and US content owners and distributors, the prime mover behind it was the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which has been active in copyright enforcement in the US.'

The plot thickens.

So, just as the film and content makers of the world were surveilling the case, watching too were the international ISPs. Over a frothy glass of vindicated evil, they no doubt breathed a collective sigh of relief at the final decision.

And that is where we are today. Ultimately the courts agreed that ISPs are simply the 'pipe layers'. In this construct, they cannot be responsible for piracy. Legally.

It is with some bemusement then, that I have watched the recent debate increase over 'Net Neutrality'.

No matter how little spare mental capacity you have, you need to know about the 'Net Neutrality' debate. It is the latest duplicitous example of powerful, monopoly/oligarchy companies trying to sneak in new laws to enrich themselves, to all of our detriment.

To arm yourself with the requisite knowledge, I strongly suggest you watch this hilarious, yet factual, clip from comedian John Oliver's show 'Last Week Tonight'. Mr Oliver decided it was time to comment on the current USA-based debate over 'Net Neutrality'.

Or, as he calls it, 'preventing cable company fuc*ery'. 

If you're too lazy, however, the simple explanation is that ISPs have been fighting since 2010 to create a two-road internet. On one road will be you and I, with 'normal' internet speeds. On the other road, will be companies, like Netflix, that will pay the ISPs to have a faster internet. The idea is that ISPs will make a fortune by charging big companies a premium to make their internet content get to you faster.

The internet will be dominated by those companies with the deepest pockets to access the best internet service from the gatekeepers: the ISPs.

And the net will be egalitarian, no more.

So, with a strong reaction to their hypocrisy, I ask you: how can ISPs have it both ways?

The central defence, in the iiNet ISP copyright infringement case, was that the WAY the internet was used was of no concern of the ISPs. They simply provide the pipe.

But the central premise of the 'net neutrality' discussion, is that the ISPs will give preferential treatment to certain content, for a price.

On one hand, they claim that they're not responsible for how the internet is used, but simultaneously they plan to extort a huge profit on preferential deals for certain content?


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