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The Fight Over Net Neutrality

Microvista® LLC - Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Would you pay to have access to the carpool lane? It would be your choice. Now, imagine paying for access to the Internet, only this time, you don’t have a choice. Net Neutrality is and issue that has come up in companies all over the world (Internet service providers in particular). The plan is to create a ‘two-tiered World Wide Web’ by giving preferential treatment to those companies that pay a higher premium for traffic.

Currently, Internet users have access to any website in the world without restrictions. Everyone is equal. President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and The Federal Communications Commission have come out in favor of keeping the Internet free.

Since April 2010 the right to have access to the Internet has been shadowed by a federal appeals court decision which ruled in favor of Comcast preventing the FCC from regulating Internet service providers. A senior executive of Time Warner cable argued that regulation will prevent innovation (see article for more details ).

However, this is actually just an attempt to make more money without being innovative. Former CEO of SBC Global, Edward Witacre stated in a 2005 interview that Internet up-stars like Google, MSN, and Vonage would not be allowed to use his company broadband pipes for free. His company had made investments and they had to, therefore, make a return on those investments. If a company wants to stay competitive, they need to have imagination. Otherwise, they will simply lose business to the competition. Contrary to what the broadband industry has said, regulation is necessary to prevent discrimination against consumers and small businesses on the Internet.

We need to research the facts before readily accepting the opinions of others on this important issue. No one wants his/her every move monitored on the web, but no one should have to pay for the right to gain access to one of the most important tools of this day and age, so what’s the solution? Below are the pros and cons of Net Neutrality:

PROS: “Comcast, AT&T and Verizon will ruin the Internet,” Mavin Amori of the Huffington Post said. Amori also lists a few of the ways Internet providers may exploit consumers:

  • If you criticize Comcast's service or its merger, especially if you use the #ComcastSucks hashtag, Comcast may block your Tweets!
  • They force every candidate up for election to register their campaign-donations webpage and abide by the same weird rules that apply to donations by text message.
  • By blocking all peer to peer technologies, even those used for software developers to share software, distribute patches (World of Warcraft), and/or distribute open source software (Linux). In fact, Comcast has shown it would love to do this.
  • They monitor everything you do online and sell it to advertisers, something that some phone and cable companies have already done, with the help of a shady spyware company.

CONS: On the other hand, Scott Cleland writes that “keeping broadband deregulated is good for everyone.” He makes the following points:

  • Deregulation respects the rule of law, Congress' constitutional authority to set inter-state communications policy, the Constitution's protections, and court precedent.
  • Deregulation encourages private investment and innovation.
  • Continues Congress' bipartisan Internet policy in law to keep the competitive free market and Internet unfettered by Federal regulation.
  • Deregulation encourages public-private cooperation to get broadband to all Americans fastest under the FCC's National Broadband Plan.

Concern about keeping the Internet free and available for everyone is rising. We need to get more involved and advocate for free access to all. Get involved by speaking to the members of Congress, local representatives, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, as well as Senator Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and/or Rick Boucher (D-Va.) since they have drafted a proposal on net neutrality.

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