In a Pearl Jam Over Neutrality


Network neutrality popped up in the oddest places this week. The band Pearl Jam was sounding like a an electron-stained vet of the telecom beat on its Web site, bemoaning AT&T’s editing–the company says it was a subcontractor–of some anti-Bush lyrics in one of its songs.

"This, of course, troubles us as artists but also as citizens concerned with the issue of censorship and the increasingly consolidated control of the media," the band said in an item on the news portion of its site.

"AT&T’s actions strike at the heart of the public’s concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media," said the item.

"Aspects of censorship, consolidation, and preferential treatment of the internet are now being debated under the umbrella of "NetNeutrality," said the band’s site.

"Debated under the umbrella of "NetNeutrality?" Concerned citizens. What happened to the days when bands just wore funny hats (think John Phillips), adopted exotic religions, or were nigh on to incoherent from excesses of celebrating their fame and fortune?

AT&T is snakebit on the issue. Former AT&t Charman Ed Whitacre handed net neutrality fans a big whupping stick when he said that he wasn’t planning to give companies like Google and Yahoo! a free ride on his telecommunication rails, or something like that.

Then there was NBC’s announcement Tuesday that it would have thousands of hours of Web coverage of the 2008 Olympics from Beijing. Can’t wait for that wall-to-wall ping pong coverage.

That announcement was  jumped on by network neutrality opponents as a warning sign that networks needed to have the capital investment and the network management flexibility to handle that kind of traffic load.

"Can the Web handle the huge traffic jump resulting from the thousands of real-time hours of high-bandwidth programming that NBC will carry out in conjunction with the 2008 Olympics in China?" asked an e-mail that came over the transom Wednesday.

"Existing video demands already have the Web in a “nonstop digital rush hour” that threatens to turn into gridlock with the coming (and much bigger) surge in demand for long-format videos and real-time broadcasts, according to a new Analysys Consulting report that will be released by the New Millennium Research Council."

Then came the buzz-phrases: "The new NMRC report will define the key ways that concerned policymakers help network providers maintain and improve the Internet by encouraging new investments and “smart” network management."

Networks argue that network neutrality conditions would discourage just such invesment and prevent just such smart network management.