It has been a busy week in Washington, one with a lot of ramifications. I especially enjoy the slight of hand tricks that we are sometimes treated to when we are told watch what’s in my right hand as the left hand holds the key.

What was this week’s distraction? Net Neutrality!

But wait, you say, Net Neutrality is important and you would be right – except that while you were watching the right hand the left hand was really setting you up for the fall. I suppose some accolades are in order for the people (and I use that term with all the artistic license I can muster) who “engineered” this bill, they managed a coup that will cost this country in immeasurable ways for decades to come.

What we have been handed is not only a loss on Net Neutrality but also one on “anti-redlining” something that if you live in an underserved or unserved area, you have just been condemned to a second class citizenhood for the foreseeable future.

As quoted from this article,

“An anti-redlining amendment offered by Baldwin, D-Wis., lost 20-28 and was one of several such efforts to fail.

The committee did approve an amendment offered by chairman Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, that set it up so that refusal to serve homes based on income could cost a phone company up to $50,000 per day in fines until a remedy had been enacted.

However, Orton said that amendment names the Federal Communications Commission as the governing authority, rather than the local franchising body.”

What does this mean? Well, if the larger broadband providers do not feel your neighborhood will generate enough profit to justify a buildout of next generation services (read fiber) you are simply screwed. While it would still be illegal for these providers to refuse service to homes based on income there is nothing that says they would have to provide service in these neighborhoods.

To put that in perspective, if your community does not justify a multimillion dollar FTTH deployment you can quite literally expect to see economic development as well as any kind of next generation services (HDTV over fiber, Telecommuting, etc) to just not be available to you or anyone else in your community. I would think it wouldn’t take a lot of brains to understand that you and your community will not be competitive with other communities if you cannot utilize the inexpensive services (relatively speaking) they have at their disposal. In other words, this might be a good time for you to consider getting into the plywood business, it will only be a matter of time before your town is the 21rst century equivalent of a gold mining town when the gold ran out.

From my viewpoint, we could compare this to the US having allowed telephone and electricity to only be deployed in those wealthy neighborhoods on this country. How wealthy a nation would we be now had we made those choices back then? What if we had decided to only pave roads in those same neighborhoods or connected interstate highways from wealthy area to wealthy area?

Naturally, we wouldn’t have done that. If we had there would have been no way for food and other agricultural goods as well as the manufactured products to be transported inexpensively to the wealthy. And we all know the wealthy do not what slaughterhouses and manufacturing plants in close proximity to their homes.

Funny, the same thing holds true today but instead of agricultural goods as well as manufactured items we will now see a large portion of our “intellectual capacity” being left without the necessary virtual transportation infrastructure to bring their products/services to market.

If there is one thing I believe we can learn from history, it is the total population of our country that adds to the greater good – not just the wealthy. As we move forward into this new millennium, one where we are really not sure what the currency of the day will be, we need to understand that should we choose to leave a significant portion of our population out of the greater economy we also leave what might be some of our next generation’s economic powerhouses out of the loop.

The ironic thing is that these corporations need to have an aggregate population that will provide all of the incredible diversity and richness the web has become for without it there really isn’t anything to do on the web, now is there? Remember, it was the idea of an Ebay, started quietly out of the public view as well as multitudes of other incredible ideas that has made the net what it is today. Take away the ability for these ideas to hatch out of whatever off the beaten path they come from and we all lose.

But don’t worry, everything is fine, there aren’t any problems we should be concerned about and American Idol will be on in a few minutes.

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