News / USA

Choosing Sides Over Net Neutrality

In the occasional rough-and-tumble of where business, politics and the Internet meet, the phrase 'net neutrality' has become fighting words. It's an easy bet that most people have no idea what 'net neutrality' means, let alone what the fight's about. At stake, however, may be the future shape and cost of the Internet. VOA's Doug Bernard spoke with reporter Sara Jerome of The Hill for more about the battle.

Doug Bernard

UPDATE: On a 3-2 vote divided along party lines, members of the FCC Tuesday voted to approve a package of rules that would largely bar Internet service providers from selectively restricting bandwidth or consumer access to the web.

Commission chairman Julius Genachowski proposed the guidelines - sometimes referred to as "net neutrality" - to, in his words, create a strong but flexible future framework for the Internet. "For the first time, we'll have enforceable rules of the road to preserve Internet freedom and openness," he said.

Under the provisions, networks such as Comcast or AT&T would not be allowed to slow or block Internet traffic from high-bandwidth or competitor's sites.  The rules would allow ISPs to provide a range of tiered services, offering greater speeds and capacities at higher prices, although as the Wall Street Journal is reporting, the rules would seem to discourage such "high speed toll lanes."

Republicans members of the commission opposed the move, questioning the legal authority of the action and the regulatory need.  Previously, 29 members of the US Senate signed a letter urging the FCC to delay action.  Already Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), ranking minority member of the Senate Commerce Committee, announced she will introduce a measure to overturn Tuesday's FCC vote.

December 18, 2010

The phrase "net neutrality" is relatively new, coming into popular use as recently as 2003 as noted by the scholarly article Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination by Tim Wu of Columbia Law School.  But the issues at play are as old as last century's technology battles over telephones and telegraphs.

The concept is fairly simple: net neutrality guarantees that every user of the Internet - no matter how large or small, rich or poor, and regardless of purpose - will be treated equally in terms of access, bandwidth, and inter-connectivity.  The analogy is made to the nation's telephone network: the customer can choose his or her equipment, service, or purpose of the call, but once connected to the "common carrier" network of phone lines is to be considered equal to everyone else.

In this view the Internet - like our networks of phone, gas or civic water systems - is a public good that everyone has an equal right to use.

In the early days of the web there was little debate about this principle, largely because there was very little need: online traffic was limited and commerce non-existent.  But as the Internet grew more complex and commercialized, a growing number of interests began calling for greater traffic regulation.

Industry network heavyweights like Comcast, AT&T and others say they need to be able to control network traffic, allowing users and providers varying degrees of bandwidth - at varying costs - to keep the Internet running smoothly and profitably.  These firms have spent millions trying to convince regulators and the public that without these tools and controls, the web may lose any competitive advantages it has.

Content providers, like Google, Yahoo!, Amazon and others warn that such control would be tantamount to a shut-off valve that networks could use to slow or speed traffic at their choice.  That, they say, would end the essential openness of the Internet and kill innovation, and they, too, have spent freely in the battle.   Both sides have sought to bolster their message by partnering with a cross-section of political interest groups from across the ideological spectrum.

Net neutrality has also pitted Congress against the Federal Communications Commission to some degree, with Washington watching closely to see which side comes out on top.  Under the Constitution, the Legislative Branch - Congress - has the right to shape policy through the "power of the purse" - the sole branch of government with the authority to tax and spend.  However the FCC, as part of the Executive Branch, has the responsibility of executing public laws - in their case, protecting the public airwaves from dispute or disruption.

On December 21, the FCC is scheduled to vote on a series of net neutrality rules and principles put forward by Chairman Julius Genachowski.  Lawmakers, business and interests groups have all been weighing in on the proposed rule-making, calling for its passage or defeat.

You May Like

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt

Issue of AIDS in workplace is one of many social issues being discussed at the 20th International Aids Conference in Australia More

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid