Understanding “net neutrality”

What happens if the big Internet service providers (ISPs) decided to make some online content more readily available than other content? And what if the easy access is provided just to content produced by companies that pay the ISPs for the privelege? Sounds a little scary, right?

Well, that’s the controversy behind the issue of network neutrality. As most of you probably know but don’t really think about – right now your Facebook page loads up just as easily as the NRA’s Web site. That’s because the Internet has been a level playing field for the most part – the ISPs have neither been favoring certain sites or putting others at a disadvantage.

But according to Broadcasting & Cable, some legislators are concerned that that’s changing. They’re calling for an investigation into allegations against several ISPs:

Most of the hullabaloo has been generated by incidents involving Comcast, Verizon and AT&T. Most recently, Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, was allegedly interfering with peer-to-peer file sharing.

For its part, Comcast says it was simply trying to keep the file sharing networks from hogging bandwith and causing a slowdown in service to others.

But some lawmakers and some activist groups are worried that the ISP’s are just moving toward a plan to offer a tiered access system – those companies (can you say Google?) who have the money to pay for it will have their content load faster for the end user. Groups like Save the Internet would like to see legislation passed to protect “net neutrality” – preventing ISPs from giving some high rollers premium service.

But others say not so fast. Read this well-thought-out argument in the November 9 edition of VideNuze to hear why keeping things just the way they are may be the best approach.

And then let us know what you think!

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