Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Net Neutrality Once Again At Risk

Net Neutrality Series, Part 4

Remember Net Neutrality? The term was coined by Columbia University professor Tim Wu in 2003 (ref). It's a topic I've written about in RapidGroove several times before (See part 1part 2part 3).

Net Neutrality is all about fair handling of traffic on the Internet. Without it, carriers could speed up traffic from, say, the audio and video services in which they have financial interests, and slow down or block the traffic of the ones where they do not. 

Net Neutrality is once again at risk. Today's FCC leadership is sympathetic to the wishes of the big carriers. In December, the FCC will vote on the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order.” The “freedom" in this case is clearly for network carriers, not you the Internet user, and the "restoring" part is about restoring the days before the FCC upheld the concepts of Net Neutrality, which the current FCC chairman characterizes as "heavy handed." But these regulations have helped to make the Internet a level playing field for new services. As a result, the FCC's likely next move will be a real blow to innovation. That's a loss for us all.

Net Neutrality is not an easy set of concepts to understand because it requires some understanding of the infrastructure of the Internet and because at times services that seem to be benefits to consumers (such as Zero Rating) are really providing a small benefit while creating an environment in which individuals and small companies cannot easily develop and deploy new services – all to protect the financial interests of a small number of very wealthy carriers with enormous lobbying power.

Perhaps even more troubling, there is evidence emerging that during open comment periods, more than a million comments calling for Net Neutrality repeal were fakes. Even public comments are struggling for a level playing field.

If you feel strongly about a free and open Internet, consider doing the following to help: 
** Write to your congress-person at  
** Join the EFF at

Finally, keep an eye on the vote in December and on the aftermath. The Internet is a powerful force and the final chapter of the Net Neutrality story has probably not yet been written.


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