The Battle Over Net Neutrality Heats Up

Net Neutrality is a crucial issue for networked publics and the topic of one chapter of the collaborative book we are pursuing will address this topic. On Tuesday Internet content providers such as Google and last mile telecoms such as telephone and cable companies clashed over regulatory policies that might enforce net neutrality. The stakes aren't so much the current implementation of broadband as the future. Telecoms have expressed their desire to build what would amount to a second, super-fast network that would deliver only privileged content to the consumer. For example, your DSL or Cable Internet provider would be able to transmit HDTV-quality content to your home in real time whereas other content providers would have access only to a slower network. Founding father of the Internet and Google evangelist Vint Cerf spoke in favor of Net Neutrality, arguing "We risk losing the Internet as a catalyst for consumer choice, for economic growth, for technological innovation and for global competitiveness."

Meanwhile, at a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, John Thorne, a senior vice president and deputy general counsel at Verizon stated bluntly "The network builders are spending a fortune constructing and maintaining the networks that Google intends to ride on with nothing but cheap servers. It is enjoying a free lunch that should, by any rational account, be the lunch of the facilities providers." In contrast, Om Malik's blog, Daniel Berninger fires back, stating that the future of the Internet and even of the technology industry in this country depends the adoption of Net Neutrality.

Another opinion is emerging on Slashdot, where the consensus seems to be that Google can win simply by letting the carriers have their way. After all, who really wants to go to whatever passes for a Verizon portal? If end-users feel that their carrier isn't delivering the services they actually want fast enough, they will vote with their feet.
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