You may have seen the words Net Neutrality bandied about online lately but what's it all about? In simple terms it boils down to should the internet offer the same to all users? Should it be a level playing field were small independent websites such as TEKJournalismUK and your personal blog are treat in the same way as a huge media corporation that would be able to pay for preferential treatment?
Your opinion may depend on where you fall in those categories but in this writer's opinion it should favour net neutrality. Without that level playing field the internet is for sale to the highest bidder and easily manipulated by governments and politicians.
It's ironic that those governments opposing net neutrality tend to be those who preach democracy in other countries around the world.
In April the European Parliament voted to "restrict internet service providers' (ISPs) ability to charge data-hungry services for faster network access." Obviously this did not suit operators who claimed the move would hinder their efforts to manage traffic. Was it all about the traffic though or the money? If it is about the money internet service providers will get the money out of users one way or another. That said protecting net neutrality is vital.
Slovenia and the Netherlands are the only EU member states that have net neutrality enshrined in their law so in spite of the EP vote we have no guarantees in the UK.
BBC News reported in April "The "net neutrality" proposal would put the EU at odds with the US, where video streaming service Netflix is paying the country's biggest cable firm for preferential treatment on its network. The law still needs to be approved by Europe's Council of Ministers".
This week in the USA activists have been making their voices heard as President Barack Obama, who on the presidential election campaign in 2008 supported net neutrality, did a U Turn. According to Time:"At a 2007 campaign forum, he went so far as to specifically promise that his Federal Communications Commission appointments would defend the principle of a “level playing field for whoever has the best idea.” “As president, I am going to make sure that that is the principle that my FCC commissioners are applying as we move forward,” he said."
He went so far as to tell a Google audience that “I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality” but seems to have forgotten that commitment now. You cannot, and should not, make such commitments when trying to secure votes unless you can out your money where your mouth is.
His current position is rather vague which leads many to conclude that he has sold out on this one.
Thursday three Obama nominated Democratic members of the FCC, Federal Communications Commission, voted to move forward with a plan to allow broadband carriers to provide an exclusive “fast lane” to commercial companies that pay extra fees. The FCC is allegedly an independent agency but you can make your own mind up on that one.
Aides to President Obama tried a damage limitations exercise to distance him from that move but in the end the buck has to stop with him.
On such aide, Press Secretary Jay Carney told the media the administration would see who that decision moved forward in the hope that it obeyed the principle of net neutrality but waffle may not be enough to allow fair play.
It looks as if net neutrality will be circumvented in the USA by creating new super-fast lanes which only are available to those prepared to pay a higher price. Thursday Time reported "The proposed rules approved on Thursday asked the public to weigh in on whether the agency should re-categorize broadband providers to fall under Title II, a move that would give commissioners a blank slate to establish new net neutrality rules. The proposed rules will be open for public comment through July 15."
According to Forbes Americans are already "getting screwed" online by having to pay higher fees than Europe and other countries around the world, yet Internet speeds are very slow.
Opinion: Net Neutrality should be a given and enshrined in law. If not it will be all too easy for unscrupulous world leaders to dominate the service and for big corporations to buy a way to stifle criticism. Maybe if the US was not spending so much money on spying on people online it would have the necessary funds to improve the Internet for Americans.