Network neutrality

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Network neutrality is a euphemism for government control of the Internet, ostensibly to ensure that Internet service providers treat all traffic equally and continue to give high-traffic websites like Google a free ride. Liberals in Washington, D.C. would then monitor and manage Internet traffic under the guides of ensuring "equality or "neutrality", when in fact the government would be interfering with the freedom and free market that has traditionally existed on the Internet.[1]

Supporters of net neutrality, such as Google, engage in favoritism of their own in supporting liberal causes, but want to prevent ISPs from having the same freedom. The net neutrality supporters insists that a new "tiered Internet" would develop unless the government takes control with regulations. For example, they claim that Hollywood could offer multimedia content exclusively in a higher tier, which could be subject to the inclusion or exclusion of certain Web sites, eventually resulting in all major Internet sites abandoning the lower tier. Targets could include blogs opposing the agenda of the mainstream media or the governments of the world, and independent musicians not affiliated with RIAA-member labels. In addition, a company within an industry could make deals with an ISP, resulting in priority over competitors' Web sites - this also raises antitrust issues.[2][3]

Many corporations and liberal advocacy groups support neutrality regulations, while hardware companies and providers and conservative groups tend to be against it. Some great figures of the Internet also oppose it, such as David Farber, noted for major contributions to programming languages and computer networking, and Bob Kann, who helped invent the TCP/IP technologies used to transmit information on the Internet.

Internet providers, however, tend to see no need for increased regulation, and fear that with increased use of bandwidth through applications such as video downloads, their networks could be overloaded if they are not allowed to control them. Jim Cicconi, a high-level employee at AT&T, said that AT&T would be "very disappointed if [the FCC] has already drawn a conclusion to regulate wireless services despite the absence of any compelling evidence of problems or abuse that would warrant government intervention." Chris Guttman-McCabe, a vice president at wireless trade group CTIA, said "We are concerned about the unintended consequences that Net neutrality regulation would have on investments from the very industry that's helping to drive the U.S. economy." [4]

If, as critics of "net neutrality" fear, regulations actually cause networks to be swamped and slowed by increased bandwidth use, the Internet could become less usable for everyone.

Exceptions for special interests

The EFF, a libertarian-leaning legal organization which opposes most regulation of the Internet, points out that government regulation of the Internet has historically been pro-special-interests and pro-Hollywood.[5] The EFF points to proposals already being discussed:

With the FCC already promising exceptions from net neutrality for copyright-enforcement, we fear that the FCC's idea of an "Open Internet" could prove quite different from what many have been hoping for.[6]

This would seem to contradict claims that net neutrality laws will protect independent media and anti-government speech.

Regulatory efforts

On September 21, 2009, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed increased FCC enforcement of already-existing "net neutrality" rules. He and his supporters described the possible new regulations as keeping the internet open; Genachowski himself said "I am convinced that there are few goals more essential in the communications landscape than preserving and maintaining an open and robust Internet," and Democratic Representative Ed Markey called the proposal "a significant step towards preserving the free and open nature" of the Internet.[7][8]

On April 7, 2010, a federal appeals court ruled that the FCC did not have the power to regulate this issue. Congress still retains the right to regulate net neutrality and/or delegate additional powers to the FCC.[9]