Net neutrality laws and SOPA style legislation seem to be in opposition to one other. Why then do so many of the authoritarian politicians, both Democrat and Republican, support both?
Who Owns the Internet
To provide a solid basis for any future arguments, it is important to address ownership of the internet. So who does own the internet?
The short answer is, no one owns “the internet”. However, this is very different from saying that the internet is public. The confusion rests in understanding exactly what the internet is. The internet is a collection of billions of devices connected to, probably millions of networks, some publicly owned, most privately owned. Information is stored on various servers (computers meant to send information to the end user).
It might be easier to think of it as something rather similar to our road system, only with more of the bulk comprised of private driveways, parking lots, and roads. This is why the argument that, since the government was built, at least in part, by the government, and using government funding, it can be controlled by the government. However, does the government have the ability to regulate your driveway? No.
There is also the misconception that the government created the internet. No one created the internet. The government, private telecom companies, and various academic institutions worked together to produce the core internet technology. However, this was mainly to create ARPANET, a weapon of war. Once the technology to connect multiple computers together was developed, small networks of academic institutions and hobbyists started to form. These networks formed larger and larger networks and more and more technologies were created. The end result was the internet that we have today.
Net neutrality, along with the threat of the NSA, has been one of the most recent attacks on the private internet. Service providers under net neutrality can not set terms of usage for their own network. This might seem great to us because it means temporary unlimited bandwidth and data access, but the service providers can not handle that kind of traffic without incurring major costs and letting traffic that they don’t want on the network to go through. In addition, automated deep packet inspection helps ISPs to prevent illegal traffic and viruses from being transferred across their systems.
Net censorship laws like SOPA, ACTA, TPP, etc, on the other hand restrict many types of traffic that can go through a network, such as copyrighted material. Most also hold the service provider responsible for such traffic. Besides being a major authoritarian move on censorship, it puts service providers in a bind. In these two positions service providers are at the same time forbidden to set terms for traffic and are held responsible for censored traffic, transferred through their networks, and it therefore Net Neutrality combined with SOPA style legislation can be seen as a combined effort by the government to gain ever increasing power to knock out any private sector service provider it sees fit.
The only way to ensure access to commercial and privately owned communication resources in times of emergency is to ensure an infrastructure that would allow such access during all times. The idea that the government would only have access to it during a time of emergency is one of good faith, which is greatly lacking when it comes to the federal government.
Back in 2012 through executive order 13618, President Obama utilized—read abused—executive orders once again to increase the control the executive branch has over the internet.
Section1. Policy. The Federal Government must have the ability to communicate at all times and under all circumstances to carry out its most critical and time sensitive missions. Survivable, resilient, enduring, and effective communications, both domestic and international, are essential to enable the executive branch to communicate within itself and with: the legislative and judicial branches; State, local, territorial, and tribal governments; private sector entities; and the public, allies, and other nations. Such communications must be possible under all circumstances to ensure national security, effectively manage emergencies, and improve national resilience. The views of all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the public must inform the development of national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) communications policies, programs, and capabilities. (Source)
Of special interest is section 5.2 along with sub-section e of that section.
Sec. 5.2. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall: (a) oversee the development, testing, implementation, and sustainment of NS/EP communications, including: communications that support Continuity of Government; Federal, State, local, territorial, and tribal emergency preparedness and response communications; non-military executive branch communications systems; critical infrastructure protection networks; and non-military communications networks, particularly with respect to prioritization and restoration;
(e) satisfy priority communications requirements through the use of commercial, Government, and privately owned communications resources, when appropriate;