Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"Net Neutrality" expands to absurdity

Jim Durbin writes that he supports net neutrality because of fears about companies blocking access to certain websites at the enterprise. In his opinion, apparently, net neutrality not only means that ISPs can't block access to lawful content, neither can employers. No net neutrality bills would take away the ability of enterprises to restrict corporate Internet access to business-related content and use products like web proxies, but it's a symptom of the fuzziness of "net neutrality" that Mr. Durbin thinks this is a reason to advocate it. What's next, a claim that the use of firewalls is contrary to net neutrality principles?

Durbin approvingly links to an article by Glenn Harlan Reynolds about employees using pirate WiFi or resorting to bringing in personal equipment with EVDO cards in order to get their Internet or blogging fix at the workplace. Reynolds and Durbin both seem to think that companies should have no right--or at least no ability--to ban such things from the workplace unless they have "big trade-secret issues" or involve national security. Now, there's a big distinction between pirate WiFi (connecting an unauthorized device to a company's internal network, most likely exposing its internals to the outside world) and using your own equipment over a wireless connection to a provider that you pay for yourself. In the former case, it's making unauthorized changes to the company's own network and security mechanisms, while in the latter the issue is more an issue of whether you're doing the job you're being paid to do. But none of this should have anything to do with the "net neutrality" debate.

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