The Debate Over Net Neutrality


Jeff Sommer of the New York Times recently wrote, "The future of the Internet — which means the future of communications, culture, free speech and innovation — is up for grabs. The Federal Communications Commission is making decisions that may determine how open the Internet will be, who will profit most from it and whether start-ups will face new barriers that will make it harder for ideas to flourish. Tim Wu, 41, a law professor at Columbia University, isn’t a direct participant in the rule making, but he is influencing it. A dozen years ago, building on the work of more senior scholars, Mr. Wu developed a concept that is now a generally accepted norm. Called 'net neutrality,' short for network neutrality, it is essentially this: The cable and telephone companies that control important parts of the plumbing of the Internet shouldn’t restrict how the rest of us use it."


Sommer continues, "Most everyone embraces net neutrality, yet the debate over how to accomplish it is so volatile that more than a million signatures have been filed protesting F.C.C. regulations that haven’t even been proposed yet. (They may be released in draft form on Thursday.) What makes the current debate so contentious is that the F.C.C. has signaled its intention to grant cable and telephone companies the right to charge content companies like Netflix, Google, Yahoo or Facebook for speeding up transmissions to people’s homes. And this is happening as the F.C.C. is considering whether to bless the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, which could put a single company in control of the Internet pipes into 40 percent of American homes. In other words, these arcane matters of engineering and jurisprudence stir people up because they appear to violate net neutrality."


Read more here.


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