Overstetched Analogies Now Threaten Net Neutrality Arguments

There is a growing danger that network neutrality supporters are going too far in creating analogies to the "treat all apps equally" position. 

For starters, the analogy is being applied on a broader basis in ways that probably are not helpful. Network neutrality, over time, as swept up so many concepts that it is in danger of becoming "anti-consumer" in its application, the opposite of what its supporters intended.

For example, the extension of the concept to sponsored apps, where mobile consumers in many developing nations get access to social media apps such as Facebook, without having to buy a data plan, now is cited as a violation of network neutrality. If so, some of us would say, go ahead and violate at will, because people like and benefit from the practice.

Likewise, there now is an argument, advanced in support of net neutrality concepts, that sees danger in managment of the flow of electricity under conditions of high load. That also is a potential overstep.

Electrical utilities already know what they must do when demand exceeds supply. They cut off access to some, as required, to preserve the integrity of the grid as a whole. That is called a brownout, a planned and rolling disruption of power supply under extreme conditions, to preserve the functioining of the electrical grid as a whole. 

The point is that denying all access, not just to some apps, sometimes is a step a utility supplier must take, under extreme load. Telcos have done the same. When voice circuits became overloaded because of holiday calling, for example, users were denied admission to the network and got a message instructing them that "all circuits are busy now, please try your call later."

Networks have to be managed under conditions of high load. There is an intellectual trap network neutrality supporters are in danger of falling into, namely overplaying the analogy in too many settings, to the point where the value of the original premise is damaged.

Yes, sometimes the flow of electrons to your house could be throttled or blocked, for entirely understandable reasons. Sometimes that is done with your permission, as when you allow temporary shutdown of your air conditioning, in the summer, to help your energy supplier manage load. 

Either way, network managment is valuable and necessary. Allowing the whole network to go down isn't so smart. That's one value of smart grids. 

Blocking or throttling sometimes might be necessary, under conditions of high load. That is different from blocking specific competitive and lawful apps. That is an antitrust issue, though. 

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