Network Neutrality – Heads Up!

Network Neutrality preserves your right to communicate freely online. The term Network Neutrality was coined in 2003 by a Columbia University media law professor named Tim Wu.  Back in the day it was referred to as “Open”.  Network Neutrality is a principle where internet service providers and government regulators must treat all data on the Internet the same.  This means that you cannot discriminate or have differential charging and costs based on user, based on content, website, platform, application, equipment type, or mode of communication.

It’s because of Net Neutrality that small businesses and entrepreneurs have been able to thrive online.  Our fair and level playing field is at risk.  Big phone and cable companies and their lobbyists filed suit against the FCC guiding principles for Network Neutrality.  Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) have much to gain financially if they can discriminately charge for varied services that are currently free.  Free Press jumped in and helped argue the case defending the FCC — and on June 14, 2016, a federal appeals court upheld the open-internet protections in all respects. However, the ISP’s are still trying to challenge these rules in court.

Wikipedia states “A widely-cited example of a violation of net neutrality principles was when the Internet service provider Comcast was secretly slowing (a.k.a. "throttling") uploads from peer-to-peer file sharing (P2P) applications by using forged packets. Comcast didn't stop blocking these protocols like BitTorrent until the FCC ordered them to do so. In 2004, The Madison River Communications Company was fined $15,000 by the FCC for restricting their customer’s access to Vonage which was rivaling their own services.  AT&T was also caught limiting access to FaceTime, so only those users who paid for the new shared data plans could access the application. In April 2017, an attempt to compromise net neutrality in the United States is being considered by the newly appointed FCC chairman, Ajit Varadaraj Pai. On May 16, 2017, a process began to roll back Open Internet rules, in place since 2015. This rule-making process includes a public comment period that lasts sixty days: thirty days for public comment and thirty days for the FCC to respond.”

Another hit to Network Neutrality is that lobbyists and opponents in Congress have done everything they can to abolish or at least to dilute the rules. Legislators have introduced numerous bills sometimes as deceptive riders to otherwise considered must have bills.

Network Neutrality is thought by many to be vital for small business owners and enterprise service providers who rely on the open internet. It is there today for service providers who create markets, and is considered crucial for companies to advertise their services, and reach customers.  Competition is the name of the game. Will we really need an open internet to help us continue job growth and advance on our competition?  Some argue yes.  Others are relying on methodologies such as Agile, DevOps and ITSM as their strategic differentiator.  I found it interesting when researching Network Neutrality that the current service providers are currently the guardians over much of internet communication. Some would consider this a conflict of interest since they have the most to gain by abolishing our current Network Neutrality governance.  So, Heads Up!  We may be paying more in the future for valued network services that have previously just been there. Educate and Inspire! 

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