“Net neutrality” — now that would be a good idea.

Dave Winer’s post about Net Neutrality reminded me of the story about Mahatma Gandhi arriving at Tilbury Docks in London and being asked by a reporter what he thought of Western Civilisation. “Ah”, said the Mahatma, thoughtfully. “Western civilisation — now that would be a good idea.”

The idea is that the transport layer, operated by telephone companies and cable companies, must transport all bits across their lines at the same rate and cost. Nice idea, but it’s hypocritical to demand that of their vendors when they don’t provide it to their users. For some reason they are never called on this hypocrisy by the tech press.

At the PDFleaks conference in NYC last Saturday I said that after Amazon booted WikiLeaks from EC2 that signaled very clearly that there is no such thing as net neutrality. Here’s a service provider, very analogous to Comcast and Verizon, that decided it wasn’t in its economic interest to carry a user’s bits. It wasn’t just about the level or cost of the service, they cut them off totally. Without adequate explanation of why. Saying they were doing something illegal is no explanation at all. That’s not for Amazon to decide, that’s for the courts. Due process is required to prove that something illegal is happening. And many legal experts believe that there’s nothing illegal about WikiLeaks.

Yep. That’s why one of the long-term implications of the WikiLeaks row will be a re-evaluation of the value and risks of cloud computing.