In the net neutrality debate, accusations against opponents of being for or against net neutrality in general is common practice. The most common basis for these accusations are legal discussions in the US and how for example the FCC decide to regulate net neutrality. But in terms of debate, the different sides always tend to discuss some sort of neutrality, even if that neutrality might be against the common notion of net neutrality. This post is a way for me to develop the concepts of neutrality for my master thesis, and try to establish some sort of categorization that I can use.
Yet again it’s been a while since I actually wrote anything on the blog. I’ve been busy with my master thesis, that I eventually scrapped a few times over. So for the latest installment I want do discuss and develop the dimensions of net neutrality, and more precisely develop a discussion on for whos neutrality different interests are speaking. As an overview I can mention that in the thesis, I aim to analyze the debate on net neutrality in Sweden and the US, as well as going through academic research on the topic, mostly relating to economy and law.
I think that there are generally three types of neutrality that people refer to without defining it themselves. There’s neutrality for individuals which contains issues like freedom of expression, censorship and end user equality. There’s neutrality for corporations which includes the right to buy a priveleged position from ISPs, the right to profits and the ability to freely innovate with out governement intrusion. Finally, there’s neutrality for licenses and/or technology. While this category isn’t as clearly defined (remember, this is very much a work in progress) it contains in some regard rights for legal agreements such as copyright, or it might be about neutrality towards the code of the internet, making sure that the infrastructure remains unchanged un the face or corporate and legal intrusions.
The results I could present in the thesis based on such a discussion would be that I try to synthesize previous statements on net neutrality into my new categories, labeling them X-neutrality, Y-neutrality and Z-neutrality. Since a lot of the discussion focuses on a single term, net neutrality, it would probably be a welcome distinction to be able to say that someone is talking about X-neutrality and not Y-neutrality. A way to clarify positions so to speak.
Another thing I would gain by this distinction is that I might investigate how compatible the different categories are, how you can combine two different ones in an argument, if you can actually incoprorate all three or if they are mutually exclusive as concepts. From what I’ve read so far, no such categorization exists, and it would hopefully clarify the debates on net neutrality vastly.
An alternative way of categorizing the discussion is to speak of what dimensions the debate takes place in. For example, three possible dimensions are Politics and freedom of expression, Culture Clash between Washington and Silicon Valley, and Structure of the Internet. Putting it in this way, results would be more about mapping statements in a venn diagram to see what ideas are being discussed and thus, perhaps, reach a common definition of net neutrality that can be used in academia. The benefit of the second alternative is that it would allow me to better problematize the problems with the structure of the internet, however, I reckon that the debate needs clear categories to better accomodate debates and viewpoints.
What do you think? Are there other possible categories I could use, and would this way actually work?