Public Knowledge Responds: We Love Peace!

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In response to a Jan. 12 guest blog from Art+Lab’s Mark McKinnon and Mike McCurry calling on media reform groups Free Press and Public Knowledge to “promote peace” on net neutrality policy, Public Knowledge Communications Director Art Brodsky provided the following rejoinder. Click here to read the Free Press response.

Let me put the agile minds of Michael McCurry and Mark McKinnon at ease when it comes to Net Neutrality. Public Knowledge agrees with everything they wrote in their Jan. 12 column. We agree that networks should be managed. We agree with them that users should be in control of their online experiences, we agree that there should be no “unreasonable and anti-competitive discrimination.”

There, isn’t that nice and peaceful? Who can possibly accuse us failing to promote the peace? Of course, we also agree that the sun coming up tomorrow is a good thing, that puppies are cute and that warm apple pie is great with ice cream on top.

In short, agreeing to the obvious gets us nowhere. What is missing from the plaintive pleas of those prominent advocates for hire is any notion of what really counts in the Net Neutrality debate, along with any discussion of the pesky details that their masters want concealed.

For example, would McCurry and McKinnon agree to the proposition that everyone’s Internet traffic should be scanned on behalf of NBC and other Big Media companies? That everyone is assumed to be guilty of copyright violations unless proven innocent? In the interest of a peaceable discussion, we think that policy would be a flagrant violation of the rights of Americans on which everyone of all political stripe could agree, whether the Democrats for whom McCurry worked, or the Democrats and Republicans for whom McKinnon worked.

Unfortunately, Arts + Labs, the alliance of telecom companies and Big Media companies, want that very authority so that they can sniff out, without any justification whatsoever, online use to which their clients might object. The phrase “get a warrant” never entered into the discussion. For Arts + Labs, that private spying is part of “reasonable network management” under Net Neutrality.

The Big Media companies went to the White House the other day to plead for the ability to kick people off of the Internet on their own say-so on the basis of allegations of copyright violations. Do we really want NBC/Comcast being the Internet cops? The Arts + Labs benefactors do.

Do we want to kill the thriving mash-up culture, that combines popular dance programs with presidential debates, or that re-purposes dialog from popular movies for social commentary? We don’t, and we hope that McCurry and McKinnon’s masters don’t either, but we’re not entirely sure.

So by all means, let us have peaceful discussions. But they shouldn’t come under the guise of glittering generalities that mask the policy goals of the Big Media corporate cultures. Can we all agree on that?