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Net Neutrality Debate Heating Up Again

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Fueled by reports that Google and Verizon may be approaching a deal among themselves in talks with the FCC regarding how services are delivered via broadband, in the Net Neutrality debate is heating up again.

A quick primer on Net Neutrality (and I mean quick and simple considering the complexity of the issues):

Essentially proponents of Net Neutrality believe that all data should be treated as equal (bits are bits) and that data should be able to flow through the broadband pipes with no restrictions or with no favoring of one kind of data over another.

Those on the other side, which include the Telcos, feel that they are owed a return on their investment and one of the many ways they can receive that return is to charge users differently for different types of data or data use. Call it premium services, call it tiered pricing, call it whatever.

Proponents of Net Neutrality argue that this would allow a broadband provider to feature its service over someone else’s of a similar type, thus stifling competition.

On all sides, everyone is skeptical about the US government being in a position to “regulate” or “re-regulate” the Internet. The FCC’s role in this has even been called into question legally.

Like I said, quick and simple. The issues really are complex and encompass everything from competition to what many feel are the ridiculously high prices currently charged for SMS messages. (Bits are bits.) What has everyone cranking up posts and articles about this, is that apparently Google and Verizon have been in conversations about an agreement (no one really knows for sure) that those who love conspiracies see as, well, some sort of conspiracy.

My hunch is that all concerned are looking out for their own self interest, as is their right, and that the FCC is trying to find a middle ground of some sort. There’s big money to be made, some would say “money to be printed,” and thus the dance. Secondarily, I think whatever comes of this will be one of those compromises that manages to upset everyone for some reason or the other.

UPDATE: Google is saying that no deal with Verizon has been struck.

Warner Crocker is a professional theatre director, producer and playwright and also a Tablet PC enthusiast. He is also a Microsoft MVP for Tablet PCs. Send email to Warner. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+

3 Comments

  1. GoodThings2Life

    08/05/2010 at 11:07 am

    This is one of those topics I am split on. I mean, on the one hand, who can argue against the “bits are bits” argument? And I fundamentally agree with that attitude, and if companies want to charge more for the TYPE of data being consumed or produced, then I have a HUGE problem with that and would tend to support net neutrality.

    On the other hand, I’m a huge proponent of charging based on the QUANTITY of data produced/consumed. If you’re on here downloading massive amounts of data constantly, you should pay more money for consuming more. I have no problem with being charged more money for more data consumption. If I download 200MB vs 200GB, I should pay more for 200GB.

    Unfortunately, it just happens to be that the content with the biggest capacities is voice and video content, which is how I feel people get confused and tend to favor the thought of net neutrality. I have a feeling most people fail to understand how much data voice/video actually are in comparison to say, a book with static images. So they feel they’re being singled out for what they’re downloading rather than how much.

    Moreover, I HATE the idea of the government regulating ANYTHING, because they fail so miserably at regulating themselves let alone being in control of others. Show me one government service that is efficient and effective, and I’ll show you why you’re wrong. It’s wreckless of us and dangerous to give them that type of authority.

  2. Roberto

    08/05/2010 at 4:14 pm

    While people are debating how much money is to be made the rest of the world is just installing hi speed internet.

    @goodthingstolife weather or not government can regulate net neutrality is certainly open to question (they probably can’t), and I am not in favor of over government regulation, but your statement that government does nothing well is really ridiculous. So here’s 3 things just off the top of my head that government seems to do pretty well
    911 system
    FAA
    and because this is about net neutrality, how the creation of the Internet itself?

  3. Paul Harrigan

    08/05/2010 at 9:51 pm

    I am an unabashed believer in internet access and charges being independent of the nature or ownership of the bits — i.e., bits are bits. The networks, ISPs and the like, should be “dumb pipes”. We do that with phone services now, and, in many ways, democracy in the US depends on it.

    On the other hand, there is good sense to charges scaling with use.

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