Monday, August 21, 2006

Learning and Net Neutrality

When I restarted my blog I vowed to myself that I would not get involved in politics. I tried focusing on politics in my first attempt at blogging (inspired by Instapundit), but I found that, while I enjoyed reading about it and discussing it with other people, it became rather tedious from a writing perspective. That said...
I am going to break my vow temporarily to reflect on the Net Neutrality bill that is before Congress currently. I just read a terrific synopsis of the issue by Mike Godwin, titled: Taxi! -- How Net Neutrality Imitates New York Cabs which got me thinking about its impact on the concept of just-in-time learning. The core of Godwin's argument is the following:
For me, the helpful metaphor is to think about taxicabs in the Big Apple. Anyone who has frequently used taxicabs in New York City is aware that there are some kinds of tiered pricing in some of these services. For example, fares during peak commuting hours may be higher, and there may particular charges associated with using toll bridges and tunnels. But one can imagine what riding in taxicabs might be like if taxicab operators had freedom to discriminate based on where a passenger was going or what he or she planned to do after getting there. Taxicab companies might be tempted under such a circumstances to cut special deals — to provide better rates and/or service to someone traveling to Radio City Music Hall rather than to the Museum of Modern Art simply because the former had a commercial partnership with the taxicab company.
That got me to thinking about the darker side of this concept. If Godwin's take on the net neutrality argument is true, then a taxicab company may also opt to exclude venturing into certain sections of the city because of crime rate. Why risk your driver and/or his/her fares earned when you don't have to?
From a learning perspective, the idea of just-in-time learning is the ability to search the web for information you need. You can then post this information (with links and proper refernce) to your blog, wiki, or other internet means. But if the likes of SBC were to have the ability to require payment from sites to allow SBC's customers to access that site then you are limiting learning capabilities. It's creating a bottleneck that shouldn't exist, but would definitely turn the whole concept of the internet, as it was orginally formulated, on its head.
I for one am going to get off my duff and research this some more to make sure my facts are straight and then contact my congressional representatives to voice my opinion.

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