Network Neutrality – those two words have been in the tech news a lot lately. At first, nobody was truly aware of the meaning and most readers would skip over it, assuming it was just a war between the FCC and companies such as Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, etc. Most users felt it really had nothing to do with them, when in reality it has everything to do with the everyday internet users like you and me. Basically, it is the principle that Internet service providers and the government should treat ALL data on the internet EQUALLY – not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.
Those that defend this definition view Neutrality a very important component of the "open Internet" – equal treatment of data without interference from a third party, such as the government. This is opposite a "closed Internet," where established corporations – Netflix, Verizon, AT&T, etc. – or governments get special treatment or favored usage over users like you and me. This idea has garnered so much strength lately that there is now an extensive debate going on as to whether there should be a new law protecting network neutrality. I just received another email today about the many responses the FCC received from consumers, asking me to send an email to voice my opinion. The email said:
"Verizon and Comcast are determined to get their way with the FCC. Their huge lobbying operations are working hard to pass Internet rules that would create an Internet "fast lane" only available to corporations who could pay massive fees, and a slow lane for everyone else."
There are some users, such as Verizon and Google that believe within types of data, such as video data, there should be Neutrality – no discrimination between video data from any user. However, they do believe there should be discrimination between different types of data that is allowed, such as Voice data should have priority over Video data…which one may be able to defend since talking over our mobile devices should probably have priority over downloading a video…what do you think?
The FCC wanted to stop taking comments about Net Neutrality on Tuesday (July 15), but their antiquated IT system crashed from so many users that they extended the deadline to July 18…well over a million comments had been entered. It is clear from the comments that big companies should not be able to interfere with consumers' access. Of course, it is not just typical consumers having their say, so are the lobbying groups and companies, whose 'comments' may be a 100 pages long. Our source looks at what some on the major companies and advocate groups are saying – really, there are no surprises here. The groups like the ACLU, Common Cause, Consumers Union, Netflix, and Reddit are basically for a law to keep Net Neutrality or a Title II reclassification of Broadband services as a common carrier so the government can protect our First Amendment rights. Common Cause writes:
"Communications policy should empower consumers, not gatekeepers. Any proposal to allow blocking, discrimination, or paid prioritization would strengthen incumbent ISPs that possess both the technical ability and financial incentives to act as toll collectors, judges and juries of internet content and access."
The surprising one in this group is Netflix, but apparently, they would rather see Title II than allow Comcast's Xfinity and Verizon FIOS to cause Netflix havoc. The other side of the coin is AT&T, Comcast and Verizon – they all believe that as little regulation as possible from the government is a good thing. Verizon claims that they have no incentive to throttle any of their services because customers would "dump them and flock to competitors." Of course, they are ignoring the fact that while FiOS customers may have that option, Verizon DSL customer almost never have that option. Comcast even came out and said that they are "so dedicated to Net Neutrality" that they do not needed stronger rules…and besides, those rules wouldn't work anyway. – In other words, trust us, we are your network provider!
Lastly, there are those 'in the middle,' so they say, such as the Information Technology Industry Council – representing Apple, Ebay, Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Yahoo, and many others. They do not want to see a Title II classification because it is "heavily regulatory" and would give the FCC too much hands-on. The organization "recognizes that without proper protections, commercial arrangements between online service providers and broadband ISPs have the potential to adversely impact competition and choice in the online marketplace…and the Commission should permit opportunities for companies to experiment with commercial agreements that could benefit customers". Therefore, in other words, no regulations because we promise to behave and only do things that will benefit our customers…never our pocketbooks. Please hook up with us on our Google+ Page and let us know if you are following the Net Neutrality talks – if you wrote the FCC your comments – and how you feel about it…as always, we would love to hear from you.