Understanding Both Sides of the Net Neutrality Debate

The term ‘net neutrality’ is something that’s on the minds of many. It seems as though almost every day, a new law or suggestion is tabled which calls the privacy of internet users into question. While you may view the net neutrality debate as something you’re getting tired of hearing, it’s actually a many-sided debate which may completely change not only the way you use the internet, but determine your right to access that information.


Should The Internet Be Regulated At All?

The principle of net neutrality is simple on the surface: the equal treatment of all information which flows across the internet, with no interference whatsoever by internet service providers. But some providers are saying that traffic must be managed in order for all customers to have the same reliability. This can mean things like offering different speed levels, or tiers of service to customers at different monthly costs, or limiting the amount of bandwidth that a customer can use by capping the number of megabytes they use per month.

But some don’t trust the intentions of internet providers, saying that they will abuse their management of traffic and many other issues will arise if they are given the opportunity to do so. In order to prevent this, they say that legislation is necessary in order to ensure that traffic is equalized and no internet content is inaccessible, whether due to its origin, requesting user or type.

In addition to how internet content is treated are many opinions on the amount of legislation needed. But it all boils down to two viewpoints:

–          there is either not enough legislation at this point;

–          there is far too much legislation already.

Those who want an open internet argue that the man who developed the original concept didn’t need to ask anyone if he was allowed to distribute it; he simply offered it to others. The cooperative nature of the internet, along with its structure is something that they say is the key to innovation.


Competition and Revenue

The opinion of many is that the smell of money is fueling the debate; the internet is vast, as are the opportunities to regulate and monetize it. And companies are of the opinion that they are entitled to assert ownership and control of all that flows through internet networks.

Because competition between internet providers has been discouraged by those same companies, either consciously or unconsciously, those companies just entering the market can face high costs which can be impossible to justify. Therefore, the consumer has far fewer choices, and there’s a higher likelihood of the choice of products to be put into the hands of internet companies.


Two Kinds of Solutions

It may take longer than anticipated to reach an agreement on the net neutrality debate. At present, the universal service that is the ideal scenario for those wanting an open internet is simply not the most profitable for companies. The focus is therefore on how much these companies can charge customers and in how many ways, promoting the idea of scarce bandwidth to justify pricing. However, this approach could very well lead to the market becoming saturated and collapsing from the strain.

Those advocating an open internet believe that not only should the principle of net neutrality be better defined, but also believe  in the practice of self-help by accessing broadband networks supplied at the municipal and community levels.

Only time will tell how internet access is regulated or if further regulation will occur, but it can’t be denied that now represents a very exciting time, both for the providers of internet service and the people who use it.

Jesse Schwarz describes himself as a serial entrepreneur who enjoys helping consumers find the best online deals, particularly in the technology arena.   New innovations like Comcast Cloud-Based TV are defining our online experience in a whole new way.

Tags: , ,