One Man's Fight Against Net Neutrality

Forget neutrality. Here's why we should make the Internet less fair and less balanced

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Illustration by John Ueland for TIME

I am neutral on most things that don't involve food or sex or sexfood, which does not yet exist but which I already feel strongly about. But I am against Net neutrality. That's the idea being pushed by the President, the FCC and people who write comments on blogs and want everything to be free except what they happen to do for a living. Net neutrality would set up rules to make sure your Internet provider treats all information equally; no website would be able to pay to move more quickly. This sounds good because people like the fact that the Internet has no barriers to entry. But that's the worst thing about the Internet. It's why looking for information about Net neutrality requires clicking around for three hours, since each site is written by some dude who knows as little as you do.

I like that everything is allowed to be on the Internet, which is like a planet-size bookstore with, for some reason, a continent-size section for pets doing stupid things. But I like that at a real bookstore, I can instantly tell the difference between works by actual historians and works by conspiracy theorists, since the real books are printed on good paper with pretty covers and the others are smudgy pamphlets. We need to bring those barriers of entry to the Internet, and speed is a key way to do it.

Senator Al Franken, at the Netroots Nation conference in late July, talked about a dystopian future without Net neutrality: "How long do you think it will take before the Fox News website loads five times faster than Daily Kos?" Hopefully, this will happen right away. Fox News should load 20 times faster than Daily Kos, because far more people read it. It's better for society that millions of people get someplace a little faster while the relatively few Daily Kos readers wait a few seconds. This is why not all roads are the same width. And more people go to the Fox News site because it's got tons of people reporting, balancing and fairing, whereas two of the contributing editors at Daily Kos are named DarkSyde and Angry Mouse.

Bandwidth is an increasingly limited resource, and we've got to figure out a better way to allocate it. You're grateful that your cell-phone carrier nonneutrally allows 911 calls through first, phone calls second (so they don't break up), instant messages next and Web searches last. But because some people hog bandwidth by pirating movies all day, we don't have doctors supervising real-time surgeries online, video calls that don't look like dispatches from the Mir space station or decent real-time video games. My Web connection is slow largely because some idiot on the block is spending hours downloading porn. The fact that the idiot is me makes me feel only a tiny bit better.

In order to save the Internet, I did what any good American does: volunteer to help. Unlike any American before, however, I had no one to offer my services to besides a corporate lobbyist: CTIA — the Wireless Association. Still, I was excited because I'd be volunteering my services to CTIA president and CEO Steve Largent, a Hall of Fame NFL wide receiver, former Congressman and one of PEOPLE's most beautiful people in 1996. Meanwhile, many people who advocate Net neutrality are, in my opinion, not even average-looking.

One great thing about volunteering for a lobbying firm rather than an organization that helps kids read is that lobbyists call back really fast. I told Largent I thought my best contribution would be to help politically frame the cause by coming up with a catchy name to compete with "Net neutrality," the way antiabortion people came up with "pro-life" in response to "pro-choice." I suggested a bunch of cool slogans that I figured people would love, such as "Net dynamism," "Net awesomeness," "Net Justin Bieber" and, from my knowledge of marketing here at TIME, "Net special anniversary collector's issue." But Largent and his team came up with "Net works," which I like a lot. "Because it is working," he said. "People are having an amazing wireless experience. The opposition is for a regulated Internet." Then he said a lot of boring things that made me realize I wouldn't mind if some of my cell-phone calls didn't go through.

Like Largent, I believe that as great as the Internet is, it can be better. And we shouldn't create laws that prevent companies from making it better. So I'm going to fight on for Net works, even if that means continuing to have incredibly boring conversations with people about this topic. I'd even be willing to distract the FCC from its reckless goals by showing them my nipple. Those people lose their minds over that.