I’ve been following the debate over Net Neutrality rather closely. Since more and more of our economy depends on the Internet for basic functionality, like the reliable functioning of email, VOIP, and telecommuting applications, this debate concerns *everyone.* Higher costs for Internet traffic will be passed along to the economy and end users ultimately. Further, more and more big lobbying interests like the financial industry are starting to realize what this means to their bottom line. They are starting to counter-lobby against the pro-telco forces that are currently at play.
What many people do not seem to understand is that all users of the Internet pay for their traffic. End users pay for access and content providers pay for the bandwidth used to distribute their data. Trust me, you do *not* want to be personally liable for Google’s bandwidth bill. If the telcos do not make enough, perhaps the solution is to charge higher bandwith rates, not discriminate against different types of traffic. Higher rates, though, would be passed along as a business expense to everyone down the line, so it’s not a perfect solution either way.
For a great audio debate on both sides of the issue, check out Public Radio’s Open Source with Christopher Lydon. The May 4, 2006 show is available for download from the website. The debate between Siva Vaidhyanathan and Dave McClure really hits many of these issues straight on. It’s well worth a listen.
A counterproposal to the telecommunications bill currently before Congress was introduced on May 2nd by Congressman Ed Markey. It’s called the Network Neutrality Act of 2006, here is a link to the bill.
Another advocacy group has materialized, called Don’t Mess With The Net. The group is supported by Amazon, eBay, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!.
Tim Berners-Lee, one of the creators of the world wide web that sits on top of the Internet, wrote a great article summarizing why the Net should be neutral. In particular, I like this quote: “When, seventeen years ago, I designed the Web, I did not have to ask anyone’s permission. The new application rolled out over the existing Internet without modifying it. I tried then, and many people still work very hard still, to make the Web technology, in turn, a universal, neutral, platform. It must not discriminate against particular hardware, software, underlying network, language, culture, disability, or against particular types of data. “