Last week, signed onto Public Knowledge’s reply to the NBC comments for the FCC along with several other organizations including EFF, the Consumer Federation of America, etc. NBC called for the FCC to require that ISPs to use “broadband management tools,” specifically to thwart the flow of illegal content across the Internet. In addition to shaky logic and unsound analogies, the premise of NBC Universal’s request is misleading. Broadband management tool is a friendlier name for network filter. Network filters would beat the free flow of content (both illegal and fair) into submission, crippling the internet, preventing progress, stifling fair uses of the internet, and ruling out possibilities latent in the connectivity that breeds the good, along with the “bad.” NBC also took the liberty of redefining some other terms in order to establish their position, such as “sharing,” as in “file sharing:”

We place “sharing” in quotation marks because the term implies – incorrectly in this context – a positive, pro-social action, whereas most P2P file transfers involve the distribution of stolen property. Accordingly, we use here the more accurate term file “transfers.”

Thank you for your “accuracy” NBC. You don’t like file “sharing.” But I am not sure about transferring. We use the word transfer when we talk about drugs, disease and nuclear warheads don’t we? But alas, this is just what you want to point out to the FCC. Having or sharing an unpaid-for copy of LFO “Summer Girls” is exactly like having a bomb or sending one to all of your pals through Fed-Up:

It is inconceivable that the U.S. government would stand by mutely and permit any other legitimate U.S. business to be hijacked in this fashion. Would the government permit Federal Express or UPS to knowingly operate delivery services in which 60-70% of the payload consisted of contraband, such as illegal drugs or stolen goods?

The comparison of real world goods with the goods that are passed freely across the net is not a legitimate or logical argument. If it does anything, it points out the laziness of NBC and everyone else pandering to this type of analogy for its obvious shortcomings, the least of which is the attempt to use apples to explain oranges. It seems that NBC feared this type of logical accusation when they made sure to show the connection between file “transfers” and real world goods. The abridged version: When you get movies online (legally or illegally) you aren’t going to the movie theatre or the rental store, you aren’t buying tickets, and in further violation of the movie going ritual, you aren’t buying popcorn, and guess what, because of you a corn farmer is producing less, “buying less equipment,” and as a result, the whole American economy suffers. Ok NBC, we get it, but you forgot something. My favorite snack is Swedish Fish. Guess I’ll be downloading just as many movies as before, free from any of your Corny guilt trips.

To be serious, what is the future we can hope for if we choose to acknowledge arguments such as NBC’s, which can so easily be reduced to jokes? The future of net neutrality is no laughing matter.