Quo Vadis, Net Neutrality?
As it currently stands, in free Western countries (sorry, Australia) the Internet works on the basis of Net Neutrality: no matter the source, the content or the destination of information on the Internet, it is delivered at the same speed, without discrimination. Differences in connection speed occur according to an end user’s ability to pay for broadband, which is unfortunate, exacerbates existing inequality, and deserves some effort to ameliorate (See Ono and Zavodny 2006 if you can pay the subscription fee first. Oh, irony!). But at least on the way to a user’s computer, all information is treated equally… to the great consternation of internet service providers (ISPs). These corporations would like to charge web sites fees to guarantee high-speed information delivery and leave non-paying sites in a slow lane. The predictable result would be consolidation of web traffic to a small set of corporate-funded sites willing and able to pay fees, leading to more consolidation of money by those corporations (and the ISPs), leading to more online consolidation. That would be a perversion of the equal-opportunity internet, on which what a speaker says is more important than the size of a speaker’s wallet.
In defense of the status quo during the 110th Congress was S. 215, a bill sponsored by Senator Byron Dorgan and cosponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, John Kerry, Patrick Leahy, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Olympia Snowe and Ron Wyden. It would have preserved Net Neutrality by law and protected equal opportunity for delivery of information across the internet, but sadly didn’t even make it out of the Senate Commerce Committee. More ominously, this bill hasn’t yet been reintroduced in the 111th Congress, and there isn’t one like it introduced by anyone else either.
If you happen to be one of the handful of people living in North Dakota, contact Senator Dorgan and ask him to reintroduce that bill. If you live elsewhere in the United States, call your own two Senators’ offices and ask them to generate and support bills in defense of Net Neutrality.
The corporations that would benefit from internet delivery discrimination don’t rest in their advocacy, so neither can we.