(that text below became a little long, but I promise it's full of real
facts, thoughts, surprises and insights. So, thank you for reading when you
have the time)
Let me get some things straight first which show what is really going on:
- for months there was a passionate, friendly, cooperatively and
information-based discussion about the problem "Wikipedia Zero and Net
Neutrality". The arguments were made clear, everybody had the chance to
learn some new facts about the matters at hand.
- foundation is saying that they have "talks", but they can't disclosure
really what's going on and don't want to put everything on a public
mailinglist. Well, little bit of "not how we do it", but understandable
because the massive conflict at the horizont with many digital activists,
their organisations and the puzzled public on the one hand and the fact
that just stopping Wikipedia Zero isn't a real option on the other hand,
makes the whole thing a little bit "delicate".
- foundation is saying that they working on something, like a text or a
draft of a text or something like that. Everybody is waiting for this,
months-long waiting. While waiting more critical articles about the
conflict are published around the globe, some of them reflecting the facts
of the story quite good.
- foundation is publishing a press release, written by Erik, which does not
really explain how the actual conflict can be solved, but giving us some
heartful stories, some thoughts about how the world and the laws in it
should be. All things you can't hardly disagree with, but nothing that
really shows a path out of the dilemma at hand.
- on a board Q&A at the Wikimania in London, the board of Trustees is asked
about its opinion towards "Wikipedia Zero vs. Net Neutrality". The question
goes to the whole board. One person of the board, Patricio Lorente, answers
with mainly two information to what net neurality is (in his opinion, but
nobody from the board is adding anything). The basic two aspects of net
neutrality when it comes to Wikipedia Zero are according to Patricio:
1. Net neutrality is "especially" or "mostly" about slow vs. fast
(meaning slow and fast transport of data). This fast lane/slow lane thing
is rejected by the board. As Wikipedia Zero is about zero lane it obviously
isn't touched by a problem of net neutrality.
2. What the foundation wants to do is to give the people the basic human
right of access to knowledge and information, but some people don't except
this(!), because they have what he calls a "wider" understanding of net
neutrality. Patricio now gets a little bit more passionate and says that a
concept of net neutrality that stands against human rightS must be revised.
Let's stop the listing of what happened so far and let's have a closer look
to what was said by Patricio publicly at Wikimania (and was applauded by a
few of the board, JImmy Wales not on stage at that moment). But first let's
read what Wikipedia is saying about Net neutrality:
"Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and
governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not
discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform,
application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication."
So the basic concept of net neutrality isn't about "fast lane vs. slow
lane" (this was one aspect of net neutrality discussion in the US this
year, because of an questionable decision of the FCC). Net Neutrality is
about treating all data equally. So, zero-rating one, but not the other can
be a problem. And it is a problem.
How can net neutrality be violated: net neutrality and its possible
endangering appear on "horizontal" and on a "vertical" levels.
Horizontally means that e.g. one music platform is zero-rated by a provider
and another isn't. First this looks like a typical competition thing on the
markets of music plattforms and access providers. But what is really
happening: The data-traffic of one music plattform is for free, the others
is going through the normal datatraffic-tariff the user has and if that is
exhausted there is no more music from there. This is a violation of
treating "all data equally" and its done inside the horizontal level of
"music data". This principle protects innovation by providing a level
playing field on a very basic important level online.
Vertically means that an access provider is stopping all data-traffic which
it recognizes as e.g. VoIP-data (done by many providers in many countries).
So, a vertical violation of net neutrality e.g. blocking a total kind of
data. - short intermission for a tipp on secure VoIP which therefore can
also not be recognized as VoIP-data;) -> get Signal for iPhone or RedPhone
for Android for free, it's an open source secure VoIP based on OpenWhisper,
end of intermission -
One other example to show how important and at the same time contested net
neutrality is in this days: In the question of how TV-Streams or TVonDemand
is handled by many countries and providers you can perfectly observe how
the net neutrality principle is eluded by making law that just decide that
TV-data which actually isn't different to best effort delivery of data
becomes an own class of data in the eyes of some providers and lawmakers -
sure, because it prevents to change the old TV-system (but change is coming
So treating data equally is a highly important principle of the free and
open web, because it guarantees that "the web" stays "the web" and
becomes something like you can see if you follow the link to the pic here
And lets not get fooled - the access providers love Wikipedia Zero also
because it offers such a beautiful combination of irresistible marketing
facts: the 5th/6th biggest website of the world, known by practically
anybody, mostly using text meaning low low datatraffic, it's pure (seen
from outside ;), and itself is doing marketing with terms like "human right
for knowledge" or "free knowledge". It's a marketers dream.
A dream that would burst if a real coalition on Free Knowledge would knock
on the doors of the providers. Let's imagine Wikipedia and two of the most
well-known free online video lectures, Harvard and Stanford, would form a
"Free Knowledge Coalition Union" (FKCU). Well, maybe that would be a little
bit to much zero-rated Free Knowledge Zero Video-Data-Traffic for many of
the providers. But who knows…
Back to Net neutrality and Wikipedia Zero and the world of Patricio and
obviously some of the board:
So, No! No, the "normal" net neutrality is not only about "fast lane vs.
slow lane" and there is no ominous "wider" understanding of it and people
who care about the important principle aren't against human rightS just
because they stand for this principle. It's just that purely because
somebody has good intentions when violating net neutrality this does not
automatically mean that there has to be non-discussable exception of "all
data is treated equally".
So, on the "factual" bases it is pretty easy to show that the opinion
presented at Wikimania is just plain wrong.
So, why bother?
Well, because after all this months of passionate, friendly, cooperatively
and information-based discussion about the problem "Wikipedia Zero and Net
Neutrality" the only thing some of the board of trustees presenting is an
incorrect understanding of net neutrality and the astonishing reveal that
net neutrality is against human rightS (which logically implicates that all
the people willingly standing for net neutrality basically are against
human rightS, too).
Actually and I have to say this quite loud and clear: That is
dis-appointing. And for me personally after months of serious discussions a
pure public insult. For me the foundation is saying - in a nice factual
statement - that they really wanna give a s*** about the whole debate. I'm
not judging the person who made this statement, somebody obviously had to
take the shot, and Patricio took it.
But I'm asking myself (and I'm not the only one) on which bases the
foundation is expecting from the net neutrality experts and the digital
activists to be taken seriously on this matter. Why should somebody who for
years tries to bring together the short and long term perspectives of
giving more free information and knowledge to more people and also fights
and respect the many other important aspects of a free and open web - Why
should such a person trying to even talk about ways out of the dilemma when
the foundation isn't even acknowledging that it right now continuously
violates net neutrality and so becoming a willingly partner of access
providers and other lobbyists who wants to get rid of one of the basic
principles of the web? Really, that was the wrong signal, guys.
And as of right now I don't know how to have a serious debate which feels
anything like it could have an open outcome. Also, the continuation of
pushing Wikipedia Zero while there is a debate about if this is a violation
of a basic principle of the web or not just feels disrespectful. I have
right now no closing sentence that gives the whole thing a new positive
PS: as for Lilas remarks: I liked the library analogy, well, being active
in lobbying for the digital access of cultural heritage that doesn't really
wonder. But even more I liked the question of public space online, another
field in which I'm actively giving my best shaping the public and
intellectual debate about. Pouring in the debate at hand reflections on
about what public space could and should mean in the digital age doesn't
solve the violation of the principle of treating all data equally, but it
brings a common even societal level to the debate. and that is good. It is
not about fibercables, data traffic, bottlenecks and all that techbubbling
anymore, but more about the question what kind of basic social agreements
will an enlightened digitalized society have when it comes to one of its
main ressources - information and the thing we call knowledge. This could
be a way of having something which is now weirdly called Wikipedia Zero
transforming and melting into something much bigger than not only WP0, but
the whole Wikimedia is.
It's tempting to form some inspiring thought clouds around that and break
them down or let them rain down into many practical fields of life as it
could be. And we should do that. Totally. But right now net neutrality is a
principle which needs to be intact because it is attacked everyday by
powerful economic and governmental forces around the world. Where we should
stand on this subject right now, which side we choose right now, shouldn't
be such a big question.
2014-08-12 23:35 GMT+02:00 Nathan <nawrich(a)gmail.com>om>:
On Tue, Aug 12, 2014 at 3:29 PM, Lila Tretikov <lila(a)wikimedia.org> wrote:
I have a question for all of you here, which is
not specific to NN, but
is about the evolution of the internet:
Do you believe that there should be "public space" on the internet,
available to all as the basic right, for no access charge. Things like:
government info, medical, social services, 911?
I think that would be great. But how do we make it work in a world where
most network infrastructure is owned by corporate entities? We have to work
within the paradigm that exists, and we must consider the knock-on effects
of our actions (such as promoting zero-rated content, or effectively a free
"slow lane" on the net) within this paradigm. But...
Our mission is to provide a public service (a source for knowledge) to as
many people as possible; the Wikimedia movement is not dedicated to open
source content, or to net neutrality, or universal internet access, or even
to freedom or democracy or other extremely positive and necessary goals.
Many of these things are crucial or beneficial to the success of our
mission, but the movement can't solve every problem or reduce every
barrier. We should focus our advocacy efforts on those things which are
most tightly linked to our mission. Universal internet access, as an
example, is much closer to our core goals than net neutrality.
Advocacy_Advisors mailing list