The Internet has historically been considered an “open and free” medium. Currently, Internet users get access to any Web site on an equal basis. Foreign and domestic sites, big corporate home pages and low-traffic blogs all show up on a user’s screen in the same way when their addresses are typed into a browser. (NY Times 2010) Having its beginnings in military and research facilities in the late 1960’s, ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) slowly evolved into what is now known as the Internet in the 1990’s.
Since then is has become the backbone of American and world culture and economics. There is almost no limit to the content available today. Any person with an idea and access to the Internet can share that idea with the world more quickly than in any other time in human history. (Hunter, 2010) Today there are deep battle lines that have been drawn. The ones on the side of the broadband companies argue that they need financial incentives to lay the cables and build the networks that will be necessary to handle surging amounts of digital traffic. USA Today, 2011) They emphatically reject any government oversight or regulations stating that government interference will smother internet growth.
This is despite that fact the original architecture of the Internet was created by government and universities. Its usefulness was greatly enhanced over the years by companies such as Intel, Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Apple and Google, much more so than by service providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. Yet it is the service providers that are demanding to become its gatekeepers. (USA Today, 2011)
The division (with some exceptions) goes down the party lines. Democrats, who are in favor of net-neutrality rules, insist regulation is needed to prevent network operators discriminating in favor of their own services. A cable-TV firm that sells both broadband internet access and television services over its cables might, for example, try to block internet-based video that competes with its own television packages. Republicans worry, that net neutrality will be used to justify a takeover of the internet by government bureaucrats, stifling innovation (that the internet’s origins lie in a overnment-funded project is quietly passed over. ) (The Economist, 2010)
To begin to grasp what has transpired since the advent on the Internet, one must know that the Internet will continue along its phenomenal growth path, despite the current global economic crisis. What’s different is that the Internet will become increasingly mobile and social. By 2012, more people will access the Internet via cell phones than PCs. Their favorite activities will be downloading music, videos and ringtones rather than searching the Web or sending e-mail. PC World, 2009). What is net neutrality? Net neutrality is the concept that states that every person should have the same open access to the internet. In other words, internet service providers should not discriminate against people based on the amount of internet bandwidth they use. Individuals who have paid for internet access should be able to visit all websites at competitive speeds. If the internet was to become non-neutral, then people would have to individually buy access to different websites.
Currently, no restrictions are being imposed, save parental control, on the information we are able to gather, and there are no restrictions on communication via the internet nor uploading and downloading. (Boswell) All of this is to change if the ISP’s have it their way. One of the greatest aspects of net neutrality is the options you have to choose from when trying to obtain content via the internet. One of the biggest fears is if net neutrality is gone, certain websites may be exclusive to a certain ISP that other ISP’s will not be able to provide to you.
Another vantage point of net neutrality is the options make the websites in question more competitive to bring you the best they can offer to get your count. If certain websites are limited to certain ISP’s, not only would you be restricted from the competitor’s websites, but the websites would have less power to sell their product to the people and there would be less incentive to bring their best. (Naik) In an era where technology is all about the progression every day, this would seem counterintuitive.
It’s been said that if the ISP’s aren’t regulated by the FCC, customers who use more would pay more, thus decreasing in congestion. Bieberle, 2010) But the ISP’s already provide different packages that provide a maximum bandwidth. Regardless, it’s just more money for them, and it’s already being feared that this would slow economic growth. Most websites seem to be in favor of network neutrality as it is. (Naik, 2010) The principle states that if a given user pays for a certain level of Internet access, and another user pays for the same level of access, then the two users should be able to connect to each other at the subscribed level of access.
The basic concept sounds simple enough: that the internet’s pipes should show no favors and blindly deliver packets of data from one place to another regardless of their origin, destination or contents. (The Economist, 2010) The growing problem with the Internet is that as broadband use expands; the amount of traffic dedicated to media use and downloading increases. This causes a disproportionate drag on the overall system. Imagine a scenario where 95 percent of the users on a particular network are simply browsing a variety of websites for information, and the remaining 5 percent are streaming videos.
If those 5 percent are demanding equal prioritization of traffic, 95 percent of the users could experience a noticeable delay in their browsing for the duration of the streaming video. Conversely, if prioritization of traffic allows the low-bandwidth browsing through first, only 5 percent of users would experience a delay, and that delay will be negligible when compared with the experience of viewing the video, especially as most software-driven video players buffer many of the packets in the stream anyhow. (Hunter, 2010)
Given the ambiguity about whether mandating network neutrality would promote or impede economic welfare, the more technologically humble course would be for policymakers to embrace a principle of network diversity, which would permit individual network owners to explore alternative business arrangements until concrete harm to competition can be demonstrated. (Yoo, 2006) According to the FCC, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can’t resist engaging in such bad behaviors as slowing a competitor’s sites to direct traffic to their own profit centers.
Though they cannot cite a single case where federal intervention was needed to avert this behavior, the FCC proposes to take over the very Internet architecture that ISPs invest 60 billion job-creating dollars a year developing. It will insist that no information can be prioritized by the ISPs, transferring that power to federal authorities instead. ISPs are left asking obvious questions. Why invest in making a network more efficient, why collaborate to build new technologies, if ISPs will not be allowed to profit from them?
In rushing to defend a consumer who has no need of its help, the FCC threatens to cripple the greatest platform for the expansion of freedom and prosperity since Jefferson put quill to parchment. (Blackburn, 2011) The net neutrality debate has brought attention to the larger concerns related to the boundaries between the FCC and antitrust authorities. The shaping of net neutrality regulatory policy’ “has operated under the assumption that the FCC has the authority, by virtue of its ancillary jurisdiction, to regulate Internet transmission providers.
This confidence in the FCC’s scope of authority proved misplaced in Comcast Corp. vs. FCC, decided by the U. S. Court of Appeals for the D. C. Circuit in 2010. Finding no relation between the FCC’s net neutrality policies and the agency’s legislative mandate, the court clarified that the FCC may use its ancillary jurisdiction only when the proposed action is specifically related to the agency’s mandated responsibilities as Congress delineated in the Communications Act of 1934 (Communications Act). Boliek, 2010) The Obama administration says the “net neutrality” rules, which were scheduled to take effect in November, are necessary to prevent Internet Service Providers from prioritizing data, or blocking services offered by competitors. (Suderman, 2012) Some of the pros and cons of “Net Neutrality” The foremost advantage of net neutrality is that it is helpful in adding competitiveness to the market, as the users are given more options to choose from.
The competition between service providers will make each of them come up with their best, and this will directly benefit the end user as he won’t just get options to choose from but also get quality service. Those in support of net neutrality are of the opinion that government control of the Internet would eliminate monopoly, thus ensuring that the big websites do not dominate the market. It will also help in curbing the numerous illegal activities and frauds which can be attributed to the web. Interestingly, most of the websites out there are in support of the concept of net neutrality. Naik, 2010)
Those who oppose net neutrality argue that it is an absolutely futile exercise as none of the service providers would go about sabotaging their rivals by blocking their content or degrading network performance. They also cite the example of other networks which are functioning properly even with the major contributors being in charge of them. As far as government control of the Internet is concerned, these people argue that it would result in increased Internet censorship and invasion of privacy, both of which wouldn’t go down well with the users. Naik, 2010)
The Internet has evolved beautifully on its own up to this point. To interfere “proactively” could be a mistake. Despite acknowledging that there exists “data hogs”, I feel it would be a mistake to begin to tweak with an issue before it became. Granted it would seem prudent to lean to caution but the Internet is too critical a medium to tamper with. If any “interference is necessary, I would suggest a two prong attack. First would be a plan to foster more competition among ISP’s.
Second would be is to offer a monthly data limit and charge by the megabyte beyond it. There’s no evidence of systemic problems in the broadband market, so new rules are unnecessary. (PC World, 2010) Conclusion Google’s original network neutrality defense can only be found today in the historical archives of the Internet. Network neutrality is there defined as “the principle that users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the Internet. ”Interestingly, though the eeming kindheartedness towards users, the only mentioned means to achieve the said effects is reflected in the following precept: “broadband carriers should not be permitted to ‘use their market power’ to discriminate against competing applications or content. ”(Thompson, 2011) It was only in the FCC’s September 2010 call for additional comment in its Open Internet proceeding that the FCC finally recognized the reality that a carrier’s decisions on Internet services are only part of a broader decision on how to use its infrastructure more generally.
That is, a carrier chooses how much bandwidth to devote to Internet service and how much to devote to video channels, and this choice can affect consumers’ ability to trade off between the two types of service. (Speta, 2011) Although the FCC has a broad scope of operation (“all interstate and foreign communication by wire or radio”), and is charged with making available “to all the people of the United States . . . a rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication service . . at reasonable charges,” as well as the duty to “encourage the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications communications capability,” the Commission’s power to require cable operators to build out to hard-to-reach areas, open their expensive high up-front-cost facilities to competitors, and charge reasonable rates for high-speed Internet access is unclear. (Crawford, 2010) There is nothing wrong with charging for a service.
The policy problem comes when there is one “delivery “actor (or one category of actors) in a position to work closely with a small stable of content/service providers. The problem is exacerbated when that same delivery actor is in a position to use its technical control over the delivery conduit to privilege its commercial relationships, and to have all of it appear to be “free” to consumers as long as they are paying a monthly subscription for content. Adding in the technical ability to charge for and deliver ads based on all of this activity, the single delivery actor becomes very powerful.
From a policy perspective, is it appropriate to have a conduit able to exert leverage over and exact tribute from all possible high-speed interactive communications? Should everything we do online trigger a payment to the pipe? (Crawford, 2010) Therefore, my opinion is that the internet should remain neutral. All businesses are capitalist entities in the pursuit of a fat bottom line, and their main objective is to please their clients (with the most money). Besides we already pay for access to the internet through ISPs, how much more would we have to pay for data transmission rates and or bandwidth?
Courtney from Study Moose
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