The issue of Net Neutrality has been a hot topic lately. Some major Internet providers, such as AT&T and Comcast, propose that they own their networks and that they should be able to block or throttle content. In other words, if Company A pays more than Company B, maybe Company A’s data gets priority throughput. Or, perhaps AT&T can hinder content or data from competitors such as Comcast. On the other side of the spectrum are those who argue that the Internet has to remain free and neutral. In this Computerworld.com article, the issue is explored more deeply.
Here is my $.02. The Internet has to remain neutral. We can’t take something as indispensible as the Internet, a tool that can be leveraged to educate and to level the playing field between rich and poor, big and small, and let big corporations control who can access it or how. Capitalism and free trade aside, AT&T does not have the right, in my opinion, to throttle or limit access from competing Internet providers, or to give a higher priority to some data over other data based on who is paying more.
Granted, users already receive varying speeds of access depending on what they pay. Users of cable modems typically get faster speeds than users of DSL who get faster speeds than users of dial-up telephone connections. But, whatever data they do send or receive is treated equally. It may be slower getting to the routers and servers it is heading for, but it is not unduly hindered based on who generated it or how much they are paying.
The Internet is a tool for the masses. As the old Information Superhighway comparison suggests, it is analogous to our highway system. If the United States were to privatize the maintenance of the roads and highways, would we allow the corporations running the road system to restrict or deny access? All inidviduals and corporations need equal access to the road system. Otherwise, a corporation, or coalition of corporations, can abuse their power to separate the haves from the have-nots.
The Internet providers need to come up with some other business model for generating revenue and profit, and compete fairly with other Internet providers. If they don’t like to play nicely with others, they should get out of the ISP business.