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Network Neutrality is the idea that all bits should be treated equally. Recently, certain internet providers (especially large telcos and cable companies) have been looking to do away with net neutrality in favor of tiered systems in which services that pay the ISP get increased priority, while those that use a lot of bandwidth without benefitting the ISP or compete with other services offered by the ISP are either blocked or slowed-down. A bill in the US Congress to enforce net neutrality recently failed in committee with a tie vote, and another to explicitly allow ISPs to filter traffic in this way is currently pending.

Possible negative effects of losing net neutrality[]

  • Phone and cable companies might block online movies or cheaper phone service over the Internet.
  • Phone and cable companies might decide which blogs or political sites people access.
  • Phone and cable companies might give preferential Internet access to companies who pay more for "premium" delivery, distorting the market for Internet applications in favor of larger and better-funded content providers and against small providers.

Possible negative effects of enforcing net neutrality[]

  • Government-mandated net neutrality increases government control of the internet and means more government regulation of the economy.
  • Government-mandated net neutrality hinders competition amongst service providers by removing one factor that could set them apart.

Common ground and innovative ways to find it[]

In the spirit of this site, below is a list of ways we can spell out the common ground we share on this issue. This is what we wish politicians would say about this issue.

  • The Internet is both a valuable public resource and a valuable source of business. Letting either of these interests overshadow the other could be dangerous.
  • Even if tiered service is allowed by law, some users will likely choose ISPs that provide net neutrality, creating an opportunity for small ISPs to grow. This market pressure will encourage more providers to offer neutrality and, if users are vocal enough about wanting it, will result in market-enforced net neutrality rather than government-enforced. The problem with this is that many of the large telcos and cable providers that want to do away with neutrality most are insulated from market pressure because they have little or no competition in their areas. These monopolies can do whatever they want because they're "the only game in town."
  • A grassroots approach at ensuring net neutrality may be more effective than legislation. The idea: ISPs that are owned by the users and run solely for the benefit of the users. On such example is the phone cooperative, which has a free speech policy.
  • If and when wireless mesh networks eventually complement/replace the wired internet, neutrality will become a non-issue, because, by design, a wireless mesh network is owned and controlled solely by it users, not third parties like ISPs. Government should encourage wireless mesh networks by keeping parts of the RF spectrum public.

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