The quality of Network Neutrality affects the Open Internet and the World Wide Web and how much control corporations have over what you/we can and can’t see as well as how much it will cost you/us is about to be classified in America by the FCC. Broadband Discrimination is the key issue. Why Net Neutrality is important spans a variety of subjects from speed of information sharing, promotion of liberty, capacity for free market innovation and competition as well as national and international security issues that impact America. It is a hyper critical issue, if we let that go it will be very difficult to get back to an internet as we know the last decades up to today.
It is clear that reducing the ‘open net’ reduces freedom and liberty on multiple levels. From promotion of democracy and liberty to protection of free speech and the ability of free markets to innovate and compete in a rapid and progressive manner. The main point is how the internet is classified by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). By classifying the net as a utility, which from our perspective it clearly should be classified as, the ability of the government to protect the free flow of information and free market capacity is increased.
Ironically, corporations promoting regulation and stratification, which will allow charging more for selective access to bandwidth, are arguing that by ‘restricting’ access they are supporting ‘free market’ principles. Context is required to understand that they are arguing corporate rights in contrast to the rights of ‘the people’ to have equal access to a necessary and needed public utility.
The Corporate Lobby Argues…
Corporations say they have no intention of reducing the free flow of information, but this is an ambiguous and unreliable phrase. They can say they have no intention, but if the corporate lobby achieves their goals they will be able to restrict access at the last mile between your house or connection and the provider. This gives them the ability to create artificial scarcity thus pushing the consumer into paying more if they want more or better access. Corporations will also be more able to restrict content thus limiting the open nature of the net. This can have many varied ramifications affecting content access.
Corporate Control of Communications (Corporatocracy)
The negative ramifications of allowing corporations to gain control of the internet will most likely include increased costs for access, reduction of utility of the internet, and a general and potentially strong impact over the short and long term ability to foster freedom, liberty and even economic and national security. And if you were ever concerned about the NSA using your data to control your life (generally the NAS mission is to protect Americans) you might want to consider the fact that corporations literally restrict your ability until you give them permission, otherwise your general internet interaction may be limited (Just think about the number of times you’ve clicked “I Agree” without reading the endless small print). And corporations ‘do’ use your data to control aspects of, and impose influence over your life via network interactions that are far more intrusive than the NSA when examined in relevant context.
Consider economic and national security. In this case, the U.S. government ‘utility’ classification can aid in protecting free speech and free markets. Contrast this with countries where governments are controlling the free flow of information on the internet – in this case it would be corporations having control over the free flow of information.
Free Speech and Personal Liberty
Reducing Net Neutrality is similar to reducing Free Speech.
By not classifying the internet as a utility we allow corporations increased control over access, which enables them greater control over costs via access. It also may easily create large monetary barriers to entry in the marketplace, which would then exclude smaller developers. This gives larger corporations unfair advantage over smaller net developers that don’t have the monetary resources to get past increasing barriers to entry, thus coercing small developers to enter the market by giving up their innovations and rights to larger corporations.
Background on Net Neutrality
Vinton Cerf, a co-inventor of the TCP/IP protocol as well as Tim Berners Lee the originator of the HTTP protocol as well as Lawrence Lessig and others have spoken on behalf of the Open Internet (Net Neutrality).
In 2003 Professor Tim Wu of Columbia University – Law School published a paper called ‘Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination’, which presented context between those for control of the internet and maintaining it’s current “Darwinian” (open/evolving) structure, which is more of a ‘Free Market’ approach allowing the open nature of the net to enable open development and more equal communications access across a broad and level playing field.
At stake is the classification by the FCC as Title I, or Title II, both (and consideration of other aspects of the Act such as access under section 706), which deals with the rights and duties of telecommunication providers. In order to protect Net Neutrality and an Open Internet the FCC should classify the internet as a utility with as much protection of the public utility as possible.
- Telecommunications Act of 1996
- Vint Cerf speaks out on net neutrality
- Tim Berners Lee – Net Neutrality: This is serious
- Net Neutrality: A Guide to (and History of) a Contested Idea
- Wu, Tim, Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination. Journal of Telecommunications and High Technology Law, Vol. 2, p. 141, 2003. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=388863 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.388863