Net Neutrality 101

The New York Times had an editorial on Tuesday that lays out the usually-complex issue of net neutrality for the internet. In addition to an excellent summary of what the issue means, they point out the political partnership between our Senator Ron Wyden and Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) to move legislation forward:

One of the big winners in the last election may turn out to be the principle, known as net neutrality, that Internet service providers should not be able to favor some content over others. Democrats who are moving into the majority in Congress — led by Ron Wyden in the Senate and Edward Markey in the House — say they plan to fight hard to pass a net neutrality bill, and we hope that they do. It is vital to preserve the Internet’s role in promoting entrepreneurship and free expression. ...

A net neutrality law would require cable and telephone companies to continue to provide Web sites to Internet users on an equal basis. Mr. Markey, of Massachusetts, will be taking over a key subcommittee that handles Internet issues. He has promised to hold hearings to educate Congress and the public, and to reintroduce his strong net neutrality bill. Mr. Wyden, of Oregon, plans to reintroduce an equally solid bill in the Senate.

Here's that easy-to-understand summary of what the heck "net neutrality" is all about:

Internet users now get access to any Web site on an equal basis. Foreign and domestic sites, big corporate home pages and little-guy blogs all show up on a user’s screen in the same way when their addresses are typed into a browser. Anyone who puts up a Web page can broadcast it to the world.

Cable and telephone companies are talking, however, about creating a two-tiered Internet with a fast lane and a slow lane. Companies that pay hefty fees would have their Web pages delivered to Internet users in the current speedy fashion. Companies and individuals that do not would be relegated to the slow lane.

Creating these sorts of tiers would destroy the democratic quality of the Internet. Big, wealthy voices would start to overpower the smaller, poorer ones. Innovation would be threatened if start-ups and small companies could not afford the new fees. The next eBay or Google might never be born.


  • (Show?)

    Great post. NPR had a good report on this issue last night and Wyden came off as a hero there, too.

  • HandsOFF (unverified)

    I think the world of Senator Wyden but he is simply wrong on this issue. Mr. Wyden isn't looking at the unindented consequences of net neutrality.

    First, a two tiered system would manage internet traffic better so that internet sites and multi-media can be accessed seamlessly and quickly. If all traffic must be treated equally, there will come a point when consumers won't be able to access sites or download movies or television shows because the equal content won't allow it.

    Proponents of so-called net neutrality argue that innovation will be threatened without it but the reality is innovation will slow because of it. Serious investments need to be made to the infrastructure as the demand for downloading and uploading content continues to sky rocket. Imagine if I created a website today but people couldn't download my content because it was being hogged by Google's content. Google is the winner and I'm the loser.

    I work with Hands Off the Internet and we don't see a need for laws that are burdensome to an industry that is as evolving as the internet.


  • (Show?)


    You are either intentionally exploiting or naively parroting a common myth about Net Neutrality.

    Distinguishing between different KINDS of Internet traffic - e.g., streaming video vs. basic web pages - is not, and never has been, at issue. Service providers can and do take advantage of what's known as "bandwidth throttling" or "packet shaping" to ensure the best quality of service. Furthermore, as demands on bandwidth get higher, the infrastructure gets built to meet it - this has been happening since the dawn of the Internet, and there's no reason to expect it to change. It's capitalism at its best.

    Net Neutrality legislation aims to assure equal access to different PROVIDERS of Internet traffic - assuring that CBS or Disney can't pre-emt the video of stupid pet tricks that I post for my family - or the offerings of a startup competitor - purely for their own gain. There is already a legitimate and functional model whereby ISPs can charge both providers and consumers of high-bandwidth content more money than others; that's not the issue at hand. The one, and ONLY issue that Net Neutrality legislation aims to address, is the ability of ISPs to illegitimately increase their profits and play favorites by arbitrarily charging certain providers A SECOND TIME for their high-bandwidth products, BASED ON WHO THEY ARE in addition to the kind of content they're offering.

    It's so damn simple, even Ted Stevens could understand it, if he weren't too busy counting up his campaign contributions.

in the news 2007

connect with blueoregon