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The Threat to Net Neutrality

by Skylar Smythe
Published December 21, 2010

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One of the things that makes the Internet so incredible is the unencumbered access that we are given to web content from around the world.  This is true for most Countries except where public Internet access is controlled for political reasons, as in the Peoples Republic of China where more than sixty laws restricting Internet usage are applied. Internet Censorship in China employs a staff of more than 50,000 police monitoring information exchange and anti government critical comments on blogs and forums.  In other words as a citizen living in China you will view only what the Government has approved.  Amnesty International reported that China “ha[d] the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world.”

It sounds horrible.  It sounds positively undemocratic and exactly what right does the Government of China have to prohibit an entire nation from being informed about the world around them?  What limitations are they placing on their own population in terms of education, health care and social/creative collaboration?  The Great Wall of China is symbolic of so many things and in the modern day perhaps symbolic of its attitudes to keeping the entire world out while imprisoning its own people.

That kind of stuff would never fly in North America right?  Wrong.

Some mobile internet providers such as Verizon want to censor Internet access by limiting or restricting free access to content.  For instance, if Verizon offered a “news reader” site it could restrict all other news feeds on your cell phone, thereby forcing you to use their application.  Consider GPS programs that are available for free (such as Map Quest).  The mobile phone provider could offer its own application (APP) version of Map Quest for fee and block your access to other map/GPS applications.  Basically forcing you the consumer to use their content only unless of course you are willing to pay an additional fee on your cell phone for unlimited internet access to the web at large.

A great video in layman’s terms is available here: www.dontregulate.org

But it sounds a little bit like a cash grab doesn’t it?  Shocking from major Internet and Mobile phone organizations.  And what it creates is a tiered system of Internet based on client affordability.  If you can afford to pay more you will have access to more information on the web.  If you are on a tight budget you will have to settle for what the mobile users provide as a free included service for their customers or similar APP’s that the consumer can pay extra to download.  The concept of tiered access to the Internet apparently began back in the early 1990’s when The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a non-profit organization began to outline standards of controlled Internet access.

Today is an important day in the history of the Internet and in the preservation (or loss) of net neutrality.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) meets today to discuss whether providers should be given the right and ability to segregate access to the world wide web for business purposes.  The offer is tabled by the FCC and supported by American Democratic FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael Copps but openly opposed by the Republican party.

It is being presented to Congress today with breath being held Globally to see what the potentially international precedent setting decision will be.  

According to Julius Genachowsky, Chairman of the FCC outlined in his December 1, 2010 blog post the following parameters represented by the FCC proposal to Congress:

1. Americans have the freedom to access lawful content on the Internet, without discrimination. No one should be able to tell you what you can or can’t do on the Internet, as long as it’s lawful. Our rules will ensure that no central authority—either corporations or government—have the right to decide what you can access on the Internet. 

2. You have a right to basic information about your broadband service.  Our proposed framework will ensure that consumers have information they need to make informed choices about subscribing or using broadband networks. 

3. The Internet will remain a level playing field.The ability for consumers to speak their mind, engage in commerce and innovate without permission from a corporation has enabled the Internet’s unparalleled success.  Our rules will protect against corporate gatekeepers prioritizing access to one person’s content over another’s.

Vinton Gray Cerf the American founding Father of the Internet has spoken out regarding net protocols and neutrality.  I have a feeling that censoring packets and lining pockets wasn’t exactly what he had in mind.

Is the Internet is above democracy?

————————————–

Source: Web December 21, 2010

 http://news.cnet.com

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com

 http://en.wikipedia.org

 http://www.ietf.org

 http://thehill.com

 http://www.fastcompany.com (photo)

http://reboot.fcc.gov

  • Luminarius Baudin

    Blech! Screw Net censorship

  • http://sigmundleominster.blogspot.com Sigmund Leominster

    The question ultimately comes down to “who pays for what?” The perception has always been that the internet is “free” but in truth, it isn’t and never has been. Someone, somewhere, is paying something. What the wireless network providers are arguing is that customers should pay for access to services that require more use of the resources they have. For example, I want full internet access on my cellphone and pay Verizon $30 per month to do that. I can choose NOT to do that and instead, log on at Starbucks for “free” via their WiFi connection. I get the same access in terms of material (although in truth, some sites are not cell-friendly so my laptop accesses more) but I have to pay for the convenience of access via the phone and 3G.

    This is not censorship unless you want to argue that any system where you have to pay is de facto censorship for the “poor.” The notion is that the person who wants full access via a phone and should pay for it. That’s simply economics. Again, the internet is not “free” and a moment’s reflection by anyone sat at an interface will reveal that to be true. It may seem free to the web surfer in Starbies, but Starbucks are picking up the tab, and you are paying for the tab by buying their coffee!

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