Net Neutrality

I found the article below quite interesting.  I came across it while reading the Non-Profit Times.  If what he says is correct, I sure hope the cable and phone companies don’t get their way. Read it for yourself. 

 

 

Commentary: Helping to Preserve Net Neutrality

 

By Art Brodsky

If you are a nonprofit and on the Web, you owe it to your organization, and the causes and groups you serve, to be involved in the congressional policy debate regarding the future of the Internet. Let’s make it even stronger. If you are not involved, you are hurting yourself, your constituencies or your cause. What is at stake is nothing less than who will control what information will flow over the Internet.

 

The teams of the debate are fairly clear cut. On one side are the telephone and cable companies and related interests. On the other side is just about everyone else, from tech companies to public interest and consumer groups, including Public Knowledge and the tens of thousands of people who have signed petitions asking for a Net Neutrality policy.

 

As it works now, the telephone and cable companies have no control over the content that flows through the Internet. This is, in fact, the environment in which the Internet was built. Under the Communications Act, telephone companies (cable not yet offering Internet service) were barred from unreasonable discrimination of their service. That is why the Internet was able to develop to the state it has today. No one needed permission to put up any sort of content or application. No one is in charge. That model, innovation without permission, is unique in history. Think of it as being the opposite of cable, in which a central gatekeeper decides which programs get on and which don’t.

 

But the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) changed the rules in 2005. High-speed broadband services were taken out from under the protection of the Communications Act, which means that the telephone and cable companies are legally free to discriminate against anyone in a manner they couldn’t before.

 

The companies want the right to absolute control over their networks. Ed Whitacre, the former CEO of AT&T, was among those leading the charge. They want to be able to cut special deals with some companies to make some services work better than others.

 

Such an arrangement works to the benefit of those who can afford the special fees for an "enhanced" quality of service. It would work to the benefit of services owned by the telephone or cable companies, or in which they had a financial interest.

 

Such an arrangement, however, would not work for the benefits of nonprofits, like public-interest groups or community organizations, which depend on the Web. The Internet would be segregated into the fast lane and the dirt road, depending on how much you could afford to pay for a better "quality of service." How many of us could afford special "quality of service" fees from the Internet providers? I suspect not many. The result would be that our Web sites would run more slowly, and be of less use to our communities.

 

The only reason the telephone and cable companies haven’t yet carried out their plans is that Congress debated the non-discrimination principle called Net Neutrality last year, and is starting to again this year. Our goal as nonprofits is to make sure that Congress keeps on top of the issue and passes legislation that prevents the Internet providers from creating a second-class tier of Web sites and makes discrimination based on the source, ownership or destination of traffic illegal.

 

The best way to become involved is to sign up at http://www.savetheinternet.com. (Yes, it’s a dot-com). This is the site sponsored by the public interest side of the fight to preserve Internet neutrality. You will find other nonprofit and public interest groups already engaged in the campaign to protect the Internet. You will be on top of what’s happening, and you will be able to add your voices at the right time when action is required.

 

The Internet has benefited all of us. We must sure it continues to do so. 

 

 

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