Feb 8 2015

Explaining Net Neutrality to My Dad

It’s late Saturday night after an awesome day in Las Vegas with my dad. We are doing our annual father-son weekend, where we head out on Friday somewhere he wants to go and return Sunday afternoon. Don’t ask my why we ended up in Vegas – it’s a mystery to both of us, but we are having fun.

Today we bought some art at the Martin Lawrence Gallery, tried to buy tickets to Rod Stewart but finally gave up, headed down to Downtown Las Vegas, had lunch at The Container Park, hung out with Tony Hsieh for a while at his new Airstream Park, had ice cream twice, dined at Nobu at the Hard Rock, and spent a lot of time talking about the government, health care, and net neutrality.

If you read my dad’s blog Repairing the Healthcare System, you know he’s incredibly passionate about healthcare, the importance of the relationship between the patient and the doctor, and how the current administration is completely bamboozling the public while subsequently nationalizing the healthcare system. Ok – that’s probably too soft – he’s certain that the system is being completely destroyed and a total collapse is imminent.

I’m not in the same headspace on this as him so we have entertaining conversations about it. I try to learn as much as I can by listening to him, challenging his assumptions, and going back and forth – sometimes lightheartedly – with my favorite Battlestar Galactica quotes, including “All this has happened before, and it will happen again.” And, as a classic misdirection on my part, I ask him “What do you think Ben Franklin would think of that.”

We have a lot of fun and learn a ton from each other. So when the conversation turned to Net Neutrality, I felt obligated to separate fact from fiction for my dad while at the same time understanding how someone like him was hearing what was going on. Not surprisingly, his understanding, which is consistent with the “anti-government” message, is to be absolutely appalled that the government is trying to control the Internet. Which, after an hour of talking about it, he started to understand that wasn’t really what was going on, or what the debate about the FCC, net neutrality, and Title II was really about.

Over ice cream (#3 for this trip) I drew him a detailed picture on a napkin of how the Internet actually worked. I rarely do this since I just assume everyone understands it. Bad assumption. It was fascinating to answer his questions, explain the parts he had wrong, and help him understand some nuances around data and how it gets from one place to another. At some point I mentioned John Oliver and Cable Company Fuckery to him.

We talked about a bunch of other things at dinner, forgetting for a while about health care, net neutrality, and the government. After ice cream #4, as we were heading up to our room, he said, “Show me that John Oliver thing on Net Neutrality.” So I did. And, if you haven’t seen it in a while, or have never seen it, it’s worth another 13 minutes of your life.

After he saw it, he said, simply, “I get it, but I’m still suspicious of the government’s intentions here.” So we watched a few more videos including this really good summary on The Verge.

We finished things off with the awesome testimony from Brad Burnham at Union Square Ventures in front of the Judiciary Committee last fall. My dad knows and really respects Brad, so after seeing this he totally got the whole picture.