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And the spin war over net neutrality begins with a letter

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465 words followed by 17 pages of signatures has showed some of the tactics the internet players will use to fight the net neutrality battle.

With the telcos putting forward strong statements last week in support of FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai’s strategy to dismantle net neutrality rules, a horde of internet-based businesses, including Twitter and Tumblr, have penned an open letter arguing the benefits of the open internet. And some might say it is a pretty clever move.

“This economic growth is possible because of the free and open internet. Our current net neutrality rules support innovation and give all businesses the opportunity to compete equally for consumers,” the letter reads.

“With strong net neutrality protections, the internet is an open marketplace where any business can compete, allowing individuals to start companies easily, market their products across the country, and connect with customers anywhere worldwide.”

Whether this tactic works remains to be seen, but it could turn out to be a useful one. The internet companies are fighting on behalf of all the small businesses, all the entrepreneurs and all those who have been swallowed up by the corporate machine but still harbour a dream of making their own millions with a brilliant idea. The message here is clear, remove net neutrality rules and you will kill the ambition of the individuals; you will destroy the American dream.

This is what might hurt Pai and his cronies. Not the fact that there is the possibility corporates might take advantage of big bank accounts and effectively remove the level playing field that the internet created, but it will kill the ambition of the individual.

“Businesses may have to pay a toll just to reach customers,” the letter continues. “This would put small and medium-sized businesses at a disadvantage and prevent innovative new ones from even getting off the ground. An internet without net neutrality protections would be the opposite of the open market, with a few powerful cable and phone companies picking winners and losers instead of consumers.”

All of a sudden Pai is the bad guy. He isn’t granting the telcos the opportunity to be creative and connect the rural economy anymore, he’s the guy who said that little Timmy can’t sell blueberries over the internet anymore because the big blueberry monster is paying to have traffic prioritised to its site.

PR spin moves are nothing new in the often complicated and contradictory US, but remember, Pai isn’t just a lawyer. Since taking office at the FCC he is now also a politician. A move like this could make him unpopular, and cost the Republicans votes. We’ll see how far Pai’s camera-friendly smile will get him now.

Of course, it would silly to presume that net neutrality rules will destroy all and every opportunity for you and your multi-billion dollar idea. Facebook for example will not prioritise traffic on its own platform, as you have to pay for it anyway. And Twitter’s platform will allow you to get out there if you are a savvy enough tweeter. But this is what you can come to expect over the next couple of months.

Because the net neutrality rules probably lie too far on the side of over-regulation, and Pai’s wild west internet will probably offer too much freedom to the corporates, the claims of advocates on either side will be extreme as well. As soon as a middle ground for net neutrality is found, the world will probably carry on pretty reasonably; the telcos will be able to make money, and the internet will offer the small guys an opportunity to compete with the corporates.

That said, if which you were hoping to see any logic portrayed in this political battle field, we’d probably recommend keeping your opinions to yourself for the moment. This is quickly turning into the playground for the partisan, the exaggerators and the divas.

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