Rarely does an opponent provide so much clarity to the one’s own side of the issue. In a column in last Thursday’s Madison (Wisc.) Capital Times, John Nichols put his finger on how network neutrality proponents, in their call for an Internet that treats all Web sites equally, muddle Web access and Web functionality, two different aspects of the Internet. In his defense of network neutrality, Nichols writes, “On the Web that the telecommunications conglomerates want to colonize for their own convenience and profits, the average Internet user could get to Wal-Mart’s site in an instant but would have a hard time getting to Wal-Mart Watch’s site.” Although I disagree with Nichols, I owe him a tip of the hat, because he took a minute to point out how the effect of network neutrality law would be judged: not by what the “telecom conglomerates” can and cannot do–but on how “average users” like you and me experience different Web sites. It won’t even matter that www.walmart.com is a retailing site while www.walmartwatch.com is an advocacy site or that the two exist to accomplish different things. The test, according to Nichols, is whether there is parity of presentation.
Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.