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Net Neutrality

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  • Net Neutrality

    By Kaitlin Funaro

    With much of our daily lives dependent on websites, blogs and online communications, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like if that were to drastically change.

    Could the speed and availability of your Internet access be determined by your income? Will your ISP block access to websites that compete with its services, products, or even ideas? Will you be unable to load small, independent websites or blogs?

    Currently, there are temporary regulations that protect us from this Orwellian urban legend, but these regulations are set to expire in the very near future. The debate over whether to make them into law is heating up Washington, with powerful names vying to make this nightmare an almost certain reality.

    The debate surrounding ‘Net Neutrality,’ a term created by Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu, will determine all of these things, and more.

    The Debate

    Bipartisan legislation known as the "Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006" has been proposed to regulate how much control Internet providers have over our service. Right now, major phone and cable companies such as BellSouth, Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T are flexing their political muscles for the right to determine two major issues:

    First, they would like the ability to charge Internet users different fees on a graded scale, depending on how much bandwidth and how many services they use. This is intended to resemble a cable TV package where you pay for selected services, instead of the one-price-for-all Internet service that most of us have now.

    Second, (and arguably more alarming) will be the ability of these ISPs to regulate which web pages will load, and at what speeds, depending on fees the page’s owner has paid to the ISP. Each provider will have the ability to determine which pages it wants the user to access. For example, if Yahoo! has paid a fee to its ISP, it can ensure that its webpage will load faster on your computer than Google. Or, if you are searching for something as simple as online driving directions, the ISP will ensure that their preferred webpage (or the one that paid them the most) will load the fastest, almost requiring that you use their service. This will almost certainly eliminate small and independent web pages and blogs that cannot financially compete with corporate sites.

    According to the Washington Post, this type of service is sought after by BellSouth CTO William Smith and AT&T CEO Edward E. Whitacre Jr.

    The Net Neutrality bill, aka the "Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006" will ensure that these major corporations cannot deny consumers access to the web pages of their choice. According to the Senate bill S2360, no service providers will be able to “discriminate in favor of itself or any other person” in allocating bandwidth or in “transmitting content or applications or services to or from a subscriber.” The bill also prohibits service providers from charging sites or other service providers for the delivery of traffic.

    Those against the Net Neutrality legislation claim that it amounts to unnecessary regulation, and is unfair to the communications giants. Major communications companies are arguing that it is their right to charge webpage owners more for faster and better delivery to consumers since they are the ones paying for the better Internet connections. A valid claim, considering it is costing them more to allow us to access WiFi, fiber optic, and new web developments. According to “Hands Off the Internet”, a group funded by AT&T and BellSouth to lobby against the legislation, the extra revenues garnered by major ISPs will allow for faster development of new technologies as well as savings passed on to the consumer to compensate for their higher revenues.

    Recent News

    The Net Neutrality bill (H5417), one piece of the "Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006", won a victory on May 25 in the House Judiciary Committee, and will shortly make its way to the House floor for a general vote. According to Josh Silver, executive director of ‘Free Press,’ a nonpartisan media reform group, the House victory "shows that the politicians are listening to the vast number of citizens who don't want the Internet to become the private domain of the cable and telephone monopolies.”

    It is essential that we do not let these issues remain outside the realm of pubic knowledge as we head into a future of even faster, better, and more available Internet service. However you envision the future of the Internet, it is essential that we make our opinions known by spreading the message of this major issue, contacting government officials, and not letting government lobbying groups or corporations decide our online future.

    There are currently 6 pieces of legislation that comprise the "Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006." Click on each link to read the full text of the legislation.

    Senate: S.2360, S.2917, S.2686

    House of Representatives: HR5417, H.R.5273, HR5252
    "I think the content providers should be paying for the use of the network.... Now they might pass it on to their customers who are looking at a movie, for example. But that ought to be a cost of doing business for them. They shouldn't get on [the network] and expect a free ride."

    AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre to Businessweek, 2005
    Discussion What If An ISP Limited The Sites You Can or Cannot Visit?
    The fight in Washington over world wide access.
    Personally I hope this isn't allowed to happen. It's a step in the wrong direction and would essentially "WalMart-ize" the internet by squeezing out the little guys. Net neutrality is a good thing, what these companies are pushing for is bad.
    Originally posted by njx9
    i invite all of you to spam the board with moronic topics that aren't even vaguely entertaining. please.

  • #2

    won't ever work online without absolute support from the government. even then, there are several "free-internet" projects, that were originally designed to allow users in say, china, to freely navigate restricted content. is probably the best example.

    i mean, it's good to be worried and to notice, and then, to take action to help protect the content, but any ISP that attempted to implement things like that would almost instantly be supplanted by another that wouldn't.

    so users would have two choices: freedom of information, or AOL. most morons would choose AOL because they don't know any better and/or aren't smart enough to find out any better, but a large enough portion would exist to sustain any smaller ISPs who were truly dedicated to free information.



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