Net Neutrality is a huge issue, folks; one of the most important in communications history because, like it or not, the Internet is the future vessel upon which all communication and information will depend.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who is only slightly less toothless than his predecessor, Colin Powell’s son, Michael, assured us today that we need not worry, and create new regulation on the Internet. In a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee today, Martin said, "I do not believe any additional regulations are needed at this time." While I would like to agree with him, and do agree with him when it comes to content, the fact of the matter is, we are headed toward a virtual oligarchy, in which a few huge companies with a lot of clout decide what is and is not "worthy" of being found when you do searches, and which sites they might decide to limit access to.
The funny thing is, the FCC just held hearings on "network management," in the wake of forced disclosures by Comcast that it occasionally interfered with file-sharing traffic for its subscribers. Comcast has also started cutting off Internet service to people who use "too much" bandwidth. And as service providers continue to promise faster Internet experiences than their systems can actually handle, what’s to stop them from creating several "tiers" of service, based on bandwidth, or possibly hefty payments from web site creators. If you can get to the Fox News site immediately, but they put MSNBC on a second or third "tier" that can be delayed somewhat, how is that fair to you? And it’s not like we all have endless access to an infinite number of ISPs. (Which reminds me; when Comcast started running its own Internet service, they promised to open it up to competition; what ever happened to that?)
While I agree that regulation of the Internet itself would be a bad idea, there has to be at least three regulations on the books; one that forbids ISPs from interfering with access to any part of the network in any way; one that requires ISPs that limit bandwidth during a given time period to make that clear in their contract, and provide a way for the user to monitor his or her bandwidth usage; and finally, a requirement that ISPs offer full disclosure when it comes to their claimed download and upload speeds.
Without a Net Neutrality law, what is to prevent large telecom companies from forcing sites to pay for access? And if sites are unable to pay for access, how are they supposed to make it in the online world? And how do you know that your searches will be accurate, rather than manipulated by the telecoms’ ability to limit access to sites they don’t like. What’s to prevent Fox from entering into a deal with Comcast to limit access to my (coming soon) Fox News Blows web site?
Republicans nurture this phobia regarding "regulation" to the point that all regulation has become a bogeyman. They treat a regulation guaranteeing Net Neutrality as if it was a ban on right wing radio talk shows. But what we’re talking about is a regulation that guarantees that the Internet stays free and available to everyone, and not just people with money. Without that, We’re supposed to accept the Bush FCC’s word that nothing will ever go wrong, because the telecoms would never do anything to limit competition, or to protect their own perceived "territory"??
Sorry, but I just don’t trust them that much…