Net neutrality seems an innocuous concept when you look at it
rationally–but no one seems to do that. Especially not big-name ISPs and
cell-phone providers in the U.S. who are fighting the idea.
The Obama administration has been pushing net neutrality as a good thing for everyone. When White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer Andrew McLaughlin spoke about the issue last week at a conference on telecom technology, he noted that free speech and network neutrality are “intrinsically linked” (BoingBoing‘s authors must have been ecstatic). Then he went further, saying that, “if it bothers you that the China government does it, it should bother you when your cable company does it.”
This last bit equated industry-led moves to question net neutrality with the extreme forms of net, and free-speech censorship practiced by authoritarian Chinese lawmakers. And that really annoyed AT&T’s chief lobbyist Jim Cicconi–he called the words “ill-considered and inflammatory” (carefully ignoring the odd fact that a telecom company has a chief lobbyist on its payroll). Of course Cicconi’s words might not be so surprising when you remember that he was a deputy chief of staff to famously tech-unfriendly George W. Bush.
Meanwhile, despite this low-brow political to-and-fro-ing, real censorship is still happening in China and no one can do a thing about it. The creators of the mobile browser system Opera had offered a loophole through China’s strict Net censoring wall by caching foreign Web sites in overseas servers, thus making them accessible to the smartphone Web-browsing public inside China–this is essentially how Opera works everywhere else too. But by letting the Chinese access forbidden pages, Opera was circumventing the state authorities. But now Opera has “upgraded” its Mini mobile browser to a new Chinese version that complies with Great Firewall restrictions.
Despite Opera’s official reluctance to comment on this move, as noted by the BBC, it’s pretty obvious that the company has folded to pressure from the Chinese government, presumably complying with net-neutrality-squashing censorship rulings in order to continue doing business in the country.