Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Net Neutrality

“Net Neutrality” is all in the news again. And like many other things our senators and representativity in Washington are debating these days, this has the potential to greatly change our lives. But we might not even realize it.

What is “Net Neutrality” (a.k.a., network neutrality or Internet neutrality)?

Basically, it is a neutral network that is free of restrictions on content, sites, or platforms, on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and on the modes of communication allowed, as well as one where communication is not unreasonably degraded by other communication streams. Well, that really didn't clear anything up did it? What that says is that if two people are paying for the same access, they should be able to connect to each other (or anyone else on that network) without restriction.

Well, that sounds good. So what's the debate about?

Up until recently this was kind-of an unwritten law. Service providers allow you to log on and go wherever you want on the Internet. You can read about your favorite actors, communicate with your friends on social networking sites, write you opinions in 'blogs, and share files (even music files). But, with newer technology has come the ability for service providers to control what you see / do on the Internet. Let me state that again. Your service provider HAS the ability to control the content you receive over the Internet. And this is why Net Neutrality becomes important to all of us.

So, let's say your business (or the company you work for) has spent a lot of money to have a very impressive website built. One that demonstrates the quality of the work performed at this business. They've even spent money to make sure that it performs well with search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

But, a competitor skimped on his website. It shows the potential customer nothing of the business, prices, quality, etc. Instead he pays the local service provider to re-direct all traffic from other sites to his site! Hmmmm, is this fair?

Looking at this from the customer standpoint... do you want your Internet service provider deciding what businesses, products, services you get to see and use? Do you want your Internet service provider to have the ability to stop you from seeing the product that has the best cost or the best quality because someone else paid them to re-direct / restrict your access?

This also means your service provider can charge you more for some things you do on the Internet and less for others. If you are downloading music, watching a TV program or streaming a movie, they may decide to charge you more – because you are using more 'bandwidth.' This may seem quite fair when you first look at it. But, what about sites that have 'heavy content' and you don't know it. Sites that use Flash animations, sites that include sound, sites with large quality photos or images. You could land on these sites after a search and be totally unaware of the bandwidth required to deliver their content to your computer. But, your service provider would still charge you.

If Net Neutrality is not made a law or an FCC regulation, your service provider will be able do this (and more) all in the name of an extra buck!

Don't think it could happen?

Well, it already has! Comcast was in the new recently for 'controlling' peer-to-peer services. And other providers have been found to be using deep packet inspection to slow or discriminate against peer-to-peer services, other file transfer services, on-line gaming services and more. So, don't be quick to believe the big cable and phone companies who tell you they won't do it.


Don't know who your reps are or how to get in touch with them? Use this link: On the home page there is a place for you to enter your zip code. You will be shown a page with your federal and state representatives listed.

Want more info? Got questions? Disagree? This is a discussion, please feel free to comment.