Network Neutrality is one of the concepts the Internet was based upon. Essentially, one person’s traffic is just as important as the next piece of traffic. The packets of information that are reassembled on the other end back into your email message are not treated any differently than your neighbor’s video streaming packets. Before Congress currently is a piece of legislation in which the telecommunications companies are supporting that would change that. If it passes, the owners of the physical network the Internet travels over will be able to prioritize that traffic. For example, a Verizon customer viewing a streaming video provided by Verizon would receive priority over other traffic. A bill is coming out of a House Energy & Commerce subcommittee that is expected to be reviewed by the whole committee later in April. In the subcommittee, an amendment endorsed by Amazon.com, eBay, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo that would have returned the bill to a Net Neutrality position was defeated. Declan McCullagh of CNET News has written an article in which he claims in the headline that “Republicans defeat Net neutrality proposal,” but a more careful reading of the article shows that the amendment was not defeated on straight party lines, one Republican voted in favor of the amendment and four Democrats voted against it.
I’m concerned that this important issue is being trivialized into a political issue. A careful review of the proposed bill is needed, not a descent into political demagoguery. A bill supported by the owners of the information infrastructure is being opposed by the companies whose continued financial viability depends on the information that travels over that infrastructure. Both sides have an important stake in determining the best outcome for this issue. It’s not purely a political issue. Politics will be part of it, as it seems the infrastructure owners have strong Republican support, and Republicans currently control both houses of Congress and the Presidency. Information is the answer, explaining the issues in such a fair and balanced way that an equitable bill can be passed. Personally, I believe an appeal for legislative help to keep a business viable is a sign that the business model the business depends on is dated, outmoded, or otherwise obsolete. Accordingly, I have little sympathy for companies that thought the system worked well enough in order for them to have built their networks under the current rules in the first place. Still, if a change is truly needed, and a compelling case is made to show the need, I am not opposed to some concessions.
If you have an opinion on Net Neutrality, please express it in the comments to this post.