What Is Net Neutrality? – The Fundamentals

This week is Net Neutrality week on the SuperNova ConversationHub.  What is "Net Neutrality?"  Here are a few resources and links that can provide the basics.

A Definition of Network Neutrality

"Network neutrality is the principle that Internet users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the Internet. The Internet has operated according to this neutrality principle since its earliest days. Indeed, it is this neutrality that has allowed many companies, including Google, to launch, grow, and innovate. Fundamentally, net neutrality is about equal access to the Internet. In our view, the broadband carriers should not be permitted to use their market power to discriminate against competing applications or content. Just as telephone companies are not permitted to tell consumers who they can call or what they can say, broadband carriers should not be allowed to use their market power to control activity online. Today, the neutrality of the Internet is at stake as the broadband carriers want Congress’s permission to determine what content gets to you first and fastest. Put simply, this would fundamentally alter the openness of the Internet.”

Source: Students for Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality – An Overview Video from Public Knowledge

(Permanent link to the Publc Knowledge Net Neutrality video)

Now, that said, there are cogent counter-arguments as well, mostly from a "let's keep the government out of as many things as possible" view.  One point of view, from Will Richmond in the comments here.  Richmond:

"I'd remind everyone of three critical things.

First, there is no substantive evidence of broadband ISP bias today, so while it's tempting to reach for net neutrality as a preventive medicine, suspicion of nefarious intentions is not a sufficient basis for government intervention. Start down this preemptive road and you’re quickly on the slippery slope of unchecked government intrusion into our daily lives.

Second, for those who don't think it's appropriate to give big broadband ISPs the benefit of the doubt, let's not forget that they privately financed the multi-billion dollar investments required to bring broadband Internet access to virtually all American homes. There’s been no government funding of this massive infrastructure build-out. It’s all a result of the free market system at work. And the record speaks for itself, there’s no evidence that ISPs have bias against anyone to improve their economic return.

Third, let’s not lose sight of the fact that multi-billion dollar content and technology companies are behind this net neutrality push. How ironic is it that this community of ardent free marketers should now be looking to the government to preemptively impose regulation? Would they want to be pre-judged as bad actors, requiring preemptive government intervention in their industries? No chance. They want the government as far away from their operations as possible.

I’m far from an apologist for big cable operators and telcos. I know their warts as well as anyone. And I’m not against regulation when it’s appropriate. But I am opposed to it when there’s no evidence to warrant it. Such is the current situation with net neutrality."

(N.B. And, for a more humorous view, here's an Ask A Ninja video on Net Neutrality.  And, for the record, I too would like some backup singers.)

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One Reply to “What Is Net Neutrality? – The Fundamentals”

  1. While I wanted to be the post above to be a primer on both sides of the issue, I do have some opinions. (Yes, shocking to hear.) As Lisa has been known to correctly tell people, my default position on most things legislative is “the Founding Fathers should have put the period in the First Amendment after the fifth word: ‘Congress shall make no law.’ So, from that point of view, Will Richmond’s points above resonate soundly with me.

    HOWEVER, I also believe that unfettered access to information (especially factual, empirical, scientific information) is something that is important enough to be on par with the inalienable statements in the Bill of Rights. It’s the flip side of free speech; it’s a belief that we have the right to access any information that is publicly available without interference from individuals, corporations, or governments themselves.

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