Net neutrality

Posted: April 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

First, a primer for the uninitiated on “net neutrality.”

Net (as in network) neutrality is the idea that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally and — more to the point — should come at the same price. Right now, for instance, you don’t have to pay more to watch a YouTube video than you do to check your email, even though the YouTube video eats up more bandwidth and, in theory, costs your ISP more for you to watch.

Websites and most consumers love the idea of net neutrality.

ISPs, on the other hand, are not fans. In fact, the net neutrality movement arose as a response to major ISPs’ plans to attempt to charge websites and service providers more for “better” service on their networks. Fail to pay up and that YouTube video might take twice as long to download … or it may not download at all.

ISPs call this the cost of doing business and a necessary reality in an era where bandwidth isn’t growing but the amount of data being pushed through the available pipes is.

Net neutrality proponents call this extortion.

No matter who is right, things were looking up for net neutrality fans after the FCC and the Obama administration came out with specific and strongly worded recommendations and plans that they would push for net neutrality as the Obama broadband program (100Mbps to everyone!) moved forward.

But the showdown had already begun prior to the Obama era, way back in 2007, when Comcast, the country’s largest cable company, began throttling BitTorrent downloads, effectively putting a speed limit on how fast they could go. The FCC put the kibosh on the practice, and ISPs, led by the mammoth Comcast, sued. Then the FCC announced even more sweeping rules that it planned to enact in the future.

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