This was written in a draft email that I eventually didn't send. It was in response to a discussion about this article.
A few notes: I'm bullshitting like 65% of this, and look forward to being called out where I haven't covered my tracks. Also, I know next to nothing about how the internet and/or public utilities are regulated now.
I totally agree that the effects of the (probable?) demise of net neutrality are *really* scary. I definitely don't want anyone controlling my access to information.
However: I worry that treating the internet like water (or heath care, or clean air, etc etc) will lead to the equivalent of golf courses in Las Vegas, which are built & maintained at the expense of basically everyone who lives in the Colorado River Basin - 12 million people and a quarter million square miles of land.
In other words - until we figure out some crazy new way of transmitting data, global bandwidth (and global bandwidth infrastructure development) is still a finite resource. And I worry that while no-holds-barred net neutrality is great for all of us (privileged, educated, live in metropolitan areas, etc), it's at the cost of... well, those same people in the Southwest.
It's possible that that's a tradeoff that's ultimately good for society (which would be fucking crazy - this is *not* a claim that I endorse), but either way that conversation needs to take place independent of any gripes I have about how long it takes me to bittorrent new episodes of True Detective. And I'm just not sure that I'd defend my right to free, ultra-fast access to internet porn when some kid in North Dakota is just trying to get off of dialup.
I don't at all mean this to be a defense of the telecom industry, and I'm not particularly excited about subsidizing high speed internet all across rural areas either. But I recognize that the world would probably be a better place if a 20 minute shower cost me significantly more than a 5 minute shower. And if society doesn't have any mechanism to make me feel that effect, then we're probably all worse off as a result.
Editor's note: Sometimes the best email is the one you drafted, deleted, and posted on your blog instead ;) Hat tip to everyone at Gin Lane for the inspiration.