When You Have Only a Hammer, Every Problem is a Nail

As the adage suggests, “when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” That is true for our understanding of network neutrality as well.

These days, many policies and practices that have little to do with consumer access to all lawful apps, or little to do with app blocking, acceleration or delays, are swept into the network neutrality orbit, unnecessarily, or perhaps even unlawfully.

Generally speaking, net neutrality does not apply, and many would argue, should not apply, to managed services, any more than applying common carrier rules to retailing, publishing, music creation, films, TV shows, radio, banking, finance, transportation, agriculture or many other spheres of human life.

Nor does network neutrality address what a “lawful app” happens to be, in any particular country. All problems are not nails; we have other tools than hammers.

And there are huge grey areas where it comes to content or app curation. App stores are not generally required to host “every app” that wishes to be carried in every app store.

Retailers are allowed to select the products they want to sell, the prices they want to sell those products for, and the range of promotions to move the merchandise.

Newspapers, magazines, TV station or radio stations, streaming content services and virtual private networks of any sort are allowed to select their own content. They are inherently curated.

No online shopping network, music service, content site, payment or banking app, for business or consumers, is a common carrier, even if accessed over the “Internet.”

It bears repeating that not every service using IP is an “Internet” app.

Carrier voice, entertainment video, information services, security services and so forth generally are managed services using IP, not not “Internet” access.

In other words, not every human activity involves an Internet access “problem.” Network neutrality was intended only to protect consumer access to lawful apps. It does not apply to business apps, enterprise apps or managed services, which exist in parallel with over the top “Internet” apps.

And, these days, since nearly any type of service, content or function can be delivered or facilitated using Internet Protocol--if not the “Internet”--we need to keep in mind those key distinctions.

All problems are not “nails.”
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