13 Feb What We’re Reading Now – Net Neutrality: And Why It Should Matter to Everyone by June Sato
Review By Grant T. Smith
January saw the passage of a bill in the United States that put an end to net neutrality. I was following the story and decided that I should reach out to find a book on the subject; I am concerned this is a big issue that most of us know very little about.
I went in search of a contemporary book that could offer us some insights. The problem was most of the books on net neutrality are too old to deal with the current discussion. I found a very limited selection of books that have been published with an expectation or discussion of the current legislation out of the US.
Then, I found Net Neutrality: And Why It Should Matter to Everyone by June Sato. I confirmed that Ms. Sato has published other books and I bought this one to open my mind.
Before I discuss the book, a bit of background on what we are talking about might help. Wikipedia defines net neutrality as:
the principle that governments should mandate Internet service providers to treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to deliver content tailored to the capabilities of a specific device or user, offer free services or to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.
Under the existence of the principles of net neutrality, service providers must provide equal access and may not give preferential access to one party over another. You can probably tell that this has been the basis of the internet and has allowed the little guy to become huge (Facebook) and continues to allow companies to reach any corner of the globe with unfettered access. As an example – you can access Shaw service through your Telus provider with no delays and Telus cannot block or slow Shaw’s services.
I am all in for net neutrality. But this book will expand my knowledge, right? Because that is why I bought it.
I was done on page 1. Get this:
“It is the Internet’s guiding principle that aims to keep out lobbyists and greedy capitalists so that every human being is allowed to access the content he chooses without being unduly discriminated against.”
I think her bias is showing just a little. Greedy capitalists, on page 1. The amazing thing is she has managed to alienate me, someone who might actually share her opinion, by creating a bar that defiles all lobbyists and capitalists on the first page.
On page 4,
“The consequences of abolishing the Net Neutrality Rule is bound to have the most devastating effects on marginalized communities…”
Again, I am inclined to support her position, but choices like ‘abolishing’ and ‘most devastating’ really hurt her ability for me to value this work as anything other than a diatribe against the legislation. They make me read with most scepticism because there is no nuance to the discussion. (Note to self: good golly Grant, you better add some nuance soon.)
For clarity, it is less that I think the principles of net neutrality should be discarded — for I think the US has made a big mistake and I hope Canada follows the rest of the world in maintaining neutrality — and more that the author rushed to print with a book that could have used a good editor.
I went back to my favourite book provider and I would like to suggest, that if I reach for another book on the concept it will be The Master Switch by Tim Wu, the man who coined the phrase ‘net neutrality’.
Let’s hope to do a bit better in March.