What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality law

UPDATE: The FCC and Gov. enacted Net neutrality laws, but the latest administration may kill the newly enacted laws. Once again, Web-based companies and concerned citizens are speaking out against removing Net neutrality safeguards.

******Original Article Below*********

Net Neutrality: What is it?

The promise of the Internet has always been its parity. It’s a fundamentally democratic technology that doesn’t discriminate against digital packets — which is why you can access the website of a tiny independent bookstore just as quickly as you can access Amazon.com. The Internet doesn’t transmit MSNBC any more efficiently than it relays Fox News. The doctrine behind this digital equality is called “Net neutrality.”

Internet Neutrality Proponents Want Formal Laws Governing Internet Traffic

Net neutrality proponents feel that the principle must be codified into federal law to prevent big telecom companies from imposing tiered service models, similar to those used by wireless companies in the early days of cell phones. The system, Net neutrality proponents fear, will create artificial scarcity in the pipeline as a way to weed out competition, ultimately ensuring monopolistic control of the Internet.

Net Neutrality Opponents Think A Formal Law Is Useless

Critics of net neutrality argue that ISPs don’t manipulate connections. They also argue that pipeline capacity is limited and companies who are shelling out the money (ultimately culled from people paying cable and Internet bills) to build the infrastructure should reap the rewards. When, in 2009, Arizona Senator John McCain introduced legislation designed to prevent the FCC from imposing rules on ISPs, he stated that by stifling innovation, Net neutrality would slow the economic recovery, depressing a weak job market even further.

Comcast and Net Neutrality

With around 16 million users, the Comcast corporation is the largest provider of home Internet services in the United States, as well as the largest cable TV operator and the third-largest telephone provider.

Comcast: “We’re Slowing Down Traffic to BitTorrent Sites.”

In October 2008, Comcast updated its terms of service to reflect what had long been rumored to be an unofficial company policy: customers who used an excessive amount of bandwidth – defined by Comcast in August 2008 as 250 GB or more per month – were subject to termination. To combat this excessive use, Comcast had been decelerating downloads through BitTorrent services.

Yes, Comcast acted partly on behalf of intellectual property holders. The company also hated torrent sites because they were slowing pipeline traffic to a crawl.

In effect, Comcast’s decision to slow down BitTorrent transmissions was an act that placed a higher priority on non-BitTorrent content than it placed on BitTorrent content. In other words, it violated the basic tenet of Net neutrality.

FCC to Comcast: “You Shouldn’t Do That. It’s A Slippery Slope.”

Nonprofit Internet watchdog groups like Open Internet Coalition quickly got into the fray. So did the FCC, which reprimanded the cable giant and instituted proceedings against the company.

Comcast sued the FCC, and in March, 2010 a federal appeals court granted Comcast’s petition for review, vacating the FCC’s 2007 order.

Was this a blow against net neutrality? Probably not: the court decision did not address the concept itself, but focused on the FCC’s legal authority to enforce it. The FCC had long assumed that Title I of the 1996 Telecommunications Act gave it jurisdiction in this area, but the court did not agree.

Since the court’s ruling, the FCC has continued to advocate strongly for net neutrality while it searches for a way to establish jurisdiction over broadband services. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, maintains that the FCC’s jurisdiction can be re-established through Title II of the Telecommunications Act. Meanwhile the FCC continues to meet with ISP lobbyists and representatives from companies like Google, Skype and Facebook to hammer together a consensus on how the agency should regulate broadband Internet service and where net neutrality fits into the picture.

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