Last week I posted a comment on Culver City, Calif.’s decision to block access to peer-to-peer sites on its municipal wireless network, which offers free access to all users. P2P, moreover, was unceremoniously lumped into the category of kiddie porn. P2P is an Internet-based application that allows users to exchange files directly from their PCs. It is one of the most democratic aspects of the Internet. It has not come without controversy. For example, because P2P can be used to copy and exchange copyrighted materials, such as music and movies, digital rights management enters into the picture. But although P2P can result in copyright violation, the application itself is not illegal, nor are P2P facilitators such as LimeWire, BitTorrent, Napster, Gnutella and KaZaA. P2P also is an inherent part of multiplayer gaming, a major revenue-driver for broadband adoption. There’s a lot at work behind Culver City’s decision to block P2P sites, including the concern the movie studios, three of which are based in Culver City, have for P2P as a potential competitor. Indeed, the studio influence provides Culver City with a degree of cover as it lets muni proponents and network neutrality advocates off the hook with a “that’s politics” shrug. The question remains as to whether the P2P censorship will extend to other municipal networks. There’s every reason to believe it will.
Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.