Why has Web 2.0 Been (Relatively) Quiet on Net Neutrality??

Sitting at the Vloggercon show again, and I came to hear on the panel on Net Neutrality - an area that really does interest me, mainly because of the deafening silence in the Web 2.0 community. Huge silence.

Why? Fear. Narcissism. Ignorance. Politics. Apathy. I am not sure which one, although I do think it is each one.

I think that Web 2.0 is afraid to take a stand on Net Neutrality - or join the voice in SaveTheInternet or Pulver's Save the Net - because it might offend a potential purchaser/corporate overlord. I think they are narcissistic because they just do not care because they think it does not affect them. I call ignorance (or, stupidity) because they do not understand the issue. I call it politics, because they are playing politics in the flip game. I call it apathy, because I just do not think they care about the issue.

The point is that I searched through Technorati, and could not find the usual Web 2.0 suspects writing, but just pointing people to fun videos that are cutesy; they are not really taking the banner of Net Neutrality.

I have discussed this with a couple of other bloggers - and wonder if Web 2.0 has not rushed to this because they are so caught up with themselves. Do they think that the banners of open source, community Web, and whatever the buzz words du jour are going to save their companies? If you look at the Web 2.0 sites -Facebook, Riya, YouTube, Second Life, Songbird, BitTorrent and others - they are total bandwidth hogs.

Look at how much Second Life is growing, to the point that it is holding virtual conferences, virtual concerts. But at least is it suited to find ways around the potential costs of the loss of Net Neutrality, as it already charges for membership.

And, well, since Friday it is even a bigger issue since the House rejected Net Neutrality. Now, while the big Net companies - MSFT, Google, Yahoo - have been to the hill to fight for Net Neutrality, the other side of the debate has just been as active.

But is smarter and better at lobbying.

Just imagine if the Web 2.0 companies rallied their users to send a letter or email to their Senators and Congressman. Would not those voices be heard, or am I a little too Mr. Smith Goes To Washington?

While I am neither for nor against Net Neutrality - I think it is inevitable - look at cable and pay TV and how that evolved from regular TV. Think about the history of television. It hit good mass adoption in the 50's, and then had a nice run through the 70's and 80's, when cable came out and offered more premium channels at a price, and then a premiere price of more channels, like HBO and Showtime. People accepted the new tiered television, and have embraced it with a little bit of complaints once in a while.

But, with the Internet, we have not yet hit mass adoption of broadband access. While people are still using dial-up of NetZero and AOL for $10-24/month, are they ready to jump to $40+ a month for DSL or Cable, and then find out that that is just the first level, not the premium Internet that will get them the cool bells and whistles?

It is too early, but it is inevitable. The fact is we all want our high, high-broadband access and we will likely pay for it.

As an aside, read these posts from GigaOm/Om Malik, which helped me understand the issue better.

But, the Web 2.0 (relative) silence is both deafening and sad. It's a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil issue right now.

Follow-up: I just spoke with Mike Hudack, CEO of
Blip.tv, who has been speaking on the issue of Net Neutrality - as part of the panel, and as part of the changes in media, and how without Net Neutrality, his company would not have been able to launch. There are some Web 2.0 companies that are speaking out there - watch the PBS Now episode - but overall, there is too much silence. Mary Hodder also speaks a lot on the issue as well.

Photo by J-Hob, some rights reserved. Disclosure - a current client I work with is involved in the Net Neutrality issue, but I do not consult or work with them on the issue.

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  1. You asked if people are ready to start paying $20 or more a month for DSL, only to learn that there is so much more out there that is better quality. But when you think about it, you have to ask how many people need that sort of technology outside of their work place? It ties into the whole idea of Net Neutrality vs. Web 2.0 in a sense. No one wants to have to pay to make the improvements and upgrades because they won't know how to use all the extra "bells & whistles" that you mentioned. And companies don't want to encourage the creation of a truly "fair competitive market economy" (as stated by Tim Berners-Lee). It comes down to a matter of what people/companies/Congress are willing to begin learning and paying for. I agree with you that Net Neutrality is inevitable, but I think that we are still a long, long way from seeing it come to pass.

  2. Thanks for posting about this. I'm sure you saw the Wall Street Journal article about Net Neutrality today. It focused on the many companies (and bloggers) talking about and taking sides on this issue. (By the way, I wrote about this issue and how it relates to healthcare back in March. Click here to read my take.)


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