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. “
9 thoughts on “Net Neutrality Update”
You make a good point. The amount of data transmitted on the Internet is growing exponentially, especially with the boom in VoIP, streaming video, and online gaming. Someone will have to pay for that data to move from place to place and for the improvements to infrastructure that the increased load will demand. If the sites that proliferate the high-demand services aren’t required to share in the costs, then the full burden would fall on the consumer.
I agree, and I think that’s the crux of the whole issue. Expanding technologies cost money. There are several ways the costs can be covered. Advocates of net neutrality legislation prefer the Telcos pay, largely because they are unfond of Telcos. However, it is not the role of government to choose winner and losers in these types of debates. This legislation would open the door to some very dangerous ideas down the road with regard to our Internet freedoms.
Anytime I see Congress discussing imposing business models on any aspect of our economy, I get serious qualms. I fear that if the advocates of “Net Neutrality” legislation (most of whom are either misinformed or special interests themselves) are successful, we can all kiss the-internet-as-we-know-it bye-bye.
Yeah yeah – this is better off left to the market because it is market matter with behemoths on both sides of the aisle. I think Google or Yahoo are a little more worried about their bottom line (why pay for something when the telcos can do it?) than the little guy…gov’t shouldn’t be involved, imho.
I don’t know much about them, but the Pacific Research Institute has a great article on this issue: http://www.pacificresearch.org/press/rel/2006/pr06-02-07.html
In part: “We have only scratched the surface of what high speed communications can do. Let’s not allow government regulation to hinder the new technology we see today and the technology that has yet to be invented.”
Of course the cost of this type of regulation will be passed on to the consumer. This is not net “neutrality” – there’s nothing neutral about it. The government wants to regulate for a problem we haven’t even faced yet. Taxpayers are already paying for the government to look into this issue and the proposed regulation hasn’t even been voted on yet. I hope the leave the internet as it is.
I see the internet as a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it situation”. Nothing is wrong with the speed of the internet, and there is no proof that a tiered internet would casue any problems to the internet’s productivity. Net Neutrality laws just don’t seem to be necessary at the current time.
And it’s obvious the Government can’t even handle actual problems that exist…..i.e. katrina relief effort, Health Care, and Social Security…….why is all this time and energy being put into a minute problem that MAY exist somewhere in the future?