The internet is a medium to exchange information, a place to share ideas freely without societies constraints. It has facilitated and enhanced globalization, spreading ideas on how to cure diseases and the latest news faster than the blink of an eye. With the advent of YouTube and other video enhancing interactions on the internet people have been able to provide real video evidence for human right abuses.By using the internet the power of the corporations are threatened by freeing artists and musicians from having to use a certain publisher to distribute their music or films. All information regardless of its content currently can be passed over the net However, that right is soon to come to an end with the invention of a law that try to undermine that freedom. The law that will change international communication and the freedom of the citizens of the world. However,net neutrality is not one law but many different laws combined. It is usually proposed by the companies and democratic groups that wish to keep the internet free, and yet the first battleground is the United States of America, the land of the liberty statue.
Net neutrality refers to the idea that, “If I pay to connect to the Net with a certain quality of service, and you pay to connect with that or greater quality of service, then we can communicate at that level. “ as stated by the inventor of the world wide web, Timothy Berners-Lee(Lee T.B, 2006). A further interpretation of what net neutrality is can be found in the Net Neutrality FAQ hosted by Timwu.org which gives a long summary of what net neutrality is. Defined by Timwu.org net neutrality is the ability for the internet, which is a network,” to carry every form of information and support every kind of application” without any discrimination whatsoever of the data being transmitted(Wu T.). An oversimplified explanation of what net neutrality really means to the average user is, “that companies which operate a telecommunications network, like the telephone and cable companies, shouldn’t be able to play favorites with the content that goes over the network. “. To put this in perspective, any company that provides connections to the public network, which today is the international network(internet) can’t alter the speed that a video file, a website, or another type of file may be accessed. This means that Google can’t pay internet service providers to allow their web page to be loaded faster than their rival Yahoo or even pay to halt access to Yahoo altogether.
As the net neutrality case seems to be mainly going on in the United States, one might ask why net neutrality affects the international community. Firstly, the internet is an international network. Anywhere you go on this world, except of the severely underdeveloped regions access to this global network is available. Even though they might differ in speed across the world, it is still a network that encompasses almost every country. Secondly, the internet is a global network where members of society, regardless of gender, ethnicity, social-economic status, or sexual preference can access. Not only is it international in terms of location, it is also international in terms of the users that contribute to the internet. It’s very common nowadays to have two people from completely different backgrounds work together through the internet sharing ideas and building upon each-others ideas. Thirdly, cases of internet shaping happen all throughout the world are increasing and the governments of poorer non-free and even the richer free countries. An example of this happening is Thailand where YouTube had been blocked in 2007 because there was a video containing insulting remarks to the king(BBC,2007). All of these factors are what makes it international, the network, the people that use it, and the myriad abuses of net neutrality worldwide.
The big supporters for net neutrality seem to be the private groups that are focused on net neutrality such as Save The Internet group and the major internet companies that rely on their service not being blocked such as Google, Skype, Facebook, Ebay, Amazon, and many more. Reasons why these corporations that rely on the internet did what they did was because they all themselves started out, flourished , and still are flourishing on the free competitive battleground that they are today. Together, the highest ranking members of these companies, the executives, all signed a petition to be given to the Federal Communication Commission. Being an institution of the government of the United States that deals with anything related to networks the FCC is at the forefront at the battle against the lobbyists(BBC). President Obama, who promised to support net neutrality during his elections in the United States, made the FCC fight for net neutrality by giving the top job of the FCC to Julius Genachowsk, a firm net neutrality supporter. So far the FCC has helped limit Comcast, a major United States internet service provider, control over peer to peer data(McCullagh,2009). Private groups that advocate for net neutrality are the Save The Internet organization. Just as the pro-net neutrality corporations, and the FCC the way this group conducts their activities is by signing petitions and trying to get congress to pass the net neutrality laws(Save The Internet,2009).
However, the big companies that are against net neutrality, such as Verizon, AT&T, and have their own reasons why they support their case. One major reason they state is that the methods needed to regulate net neutrality would, “ actually kill Internet innovation and crush an industry that has operated effectively through market forces alone”. Another reason they stated was that , “ network management is key to stopping threats like viruses and spam”. A third reason was that they wanted to make sure that “heavy” internet users wouldn’t hog the bandwidth of the network, so in order to make sure that the quality of internet users on the network wouldn’t be degraded. Lastly they stated that they, the conglomerate of internet service providers, should be in control of what the internet in their country should be managed as they think internet issues are, “ best left to network engineers who must respond to real world concerns”(Albanesius,2008). However, their lobbyists are just a few of a greater alliance of companies that profit from having no net neutrality to this day still are trying to win the case against net neutrality.
Throughout history people with power have always fought for control of the means of information and good exchange. Before the age of ships it was the silk road where states that controlled huge amounts of it could charge, and limit, the amount of goods going through. In the late 1700’s it was the trade routes where access was limited to only the most powerful colonial empire. Shift 300 years later it is the internet, which unlike the previous two methods of information exchange and trade the internet started out free. Net neutrality is becoming increasingly more important as more and more countries start to block off access. Everything related to the net neutrality debate comes back to the United States, an important staging ground for either being the first country to enact a law pro-net neutrality or against.The United States might be just one country but if the net neutrality act can’t be passed through congress it will set an example to other countries that wish to block full access to the internet . If applied to the domino theory, when one country as influential as the United States of America starts to lack internet freedom, that same effect would slowly but surely change the neighboring countries law on net neutrality and so forth.Personally I’m all for net neutrality as I, a “heavy internet user” would be discriminated against and as I prefer choice from a huge number of software, something that would be lacking in a world without net neutrality, an internet without freedom would seem unfriendly.
- Albanesius, C. (19th February 2008). AT&T, TW, Verizon Make Case Against Net Neutrality. Retrieved October 29, 2009, from http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2265133,00.asp.
- BBC. (4 April 2007). Thailand Blocks Access to Youtube. Retrieved October 29, 2009, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6528303.stm.
- BBC. (n.d.). BBC NEWS | Technology | Big names support net neutrality. Retrieved October 27, 2009, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8315918.stm
- Lee, T. B. (2006, June 21). Net Neutrality: This is serious | Decentralized Information Group (DIG) Breadcrumbs. Retrieved October 27, 2009, from http://dig.csail.mit.edu/breadcrumbs/node/144
- Knowledge. (n.d.). Network Neutrality | Public Knowledge. Retrieved October 27, 2009, from http://www.publicknowledge.org/issues/network-neutrality
- McCullagh, D.(2009,March 3). Obama picks Net neutrality backer as FCC chief | Politics and Law – CNET News. Retrieved October 29, 2009 from http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10187067-38.html
- Save The Internet. (2009). Frequently Asked Questions | Save the Internet. Retrieved November 1, 2009, from http://www.savetheinternet.com/faq.
- Wu, T. (n.d.). Network Neutrality FAQ. Retrieved October 29, 2009, from http://timwu.org/network_neutrality.html