The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has an open proceeding on net neutrality. What is net neutrality and what does it mean to me?
Net neutrality is a nominative term for equal access to all of the services that the internet has to offer. In contrast to net neutrality is a variety of activities that restrict the end-user from transmission of the full range of internet communications. For example, suppose that you want to use a VOIP service that is much cheaper than what your internet service provider provides. Say you can get Skype for $3.95 a month but your internet service provider – the phone company that provides your DSL or your cable company that provides your high-speed internet service – has a competing offering of VOIP telephone for $12.95 a month. Your internet service provider might consider the competing service as undesirable and either block it entirely or at least slow down the access of that service. In that case your internet service provider is not providing neutral, equal access to the internet.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons to block some services on the internet. For example, certain services are obsolete and insecure, so some ISPs block them entirely. Also, some services, especially database services, are often deemed premium services and the ISP is willing to let those services operate for a slightly higher monthly fee. On the other hand, however, are actions by ISPs such as blocking services like competing VOIP providers – those actions seem to be an uncompetitive practice. The most difficult questions come with services used for both legitimate purposes as well as purposes that may lead to illegitimate uses such as copyright infringement. Some of the P-to-P protocols and services might be considered in this category. The ISP will claim that the P-toP services consume too much bandwidth. The end user will claim that they are entitled to be able to use the P-toP service.
The macro business issues are difficult. The ISPs have invested millions of dollars into their physical plants and the labor it takes to run them. shouldn’t they be able to make money off of their investment in appropriate ways? The end users will assert that they are paying the monthly fee, shouldn’t they be entitled to use the internet in any way the wish?
You are an end user. What do you think? Under what circumstances should ISPs be able to block services on the internet? For security reasons? For business reasons? Should end users have complete and unfettered access to all services on the internet? The FCC has an open proceeding. They will be holding public hearings on the issues, they will be posting information and notices, and they will be accepting comments from the public.