Though I am an internet addict (I refuse to calculate how many hours I spend on the internet in a day), the phrase "net neutrality" is relatively new to me. I first learned about it just a month or so ago after the Streamy awards at the Celebrate the Web event. I know I'm not the only one either, so I want to help get the word out.
What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality advocates equal use of the internet without any restrictions from internet service providers (ISP) or the government on content of sites, platforms, or the modes of communication. Local cable, satellite, or telecommunications companies should not be able to slow or block the delivery of popular content sites. Nor they should they be able to guarantee uninterrupted high-speed access to certain services for a fee. For example, ISPs shouldn't have tiered levels for different types of internet use or bandwidth cosumption. An internet user shouldn't have to pay an additional $10 per month to his or her ISP just to have access to YouTube for example. One rate should include access to all of the internet. With net neutrality, the network's only job is to move data and not to choose which data gets special higher quality service.
Who doesn't like net neutrality?
The answer is not that surprising. The big companies like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner want to have control over the loading of internet sites. They would like to be able to charge you more so that for example, you can watch a video on Hulu without waiting for it to buffer. Or maybe the level of bandwidth that would support a game such as World of Warcraft would cost more. They'd also like to slow down or block the search engines and tools of their competitors, while of course boosting their own. They are lobbying the FCC and Congress to get rid of net neutrality. See the photo above for an example of what could happen if they are not regulated.
The repercussions of having large companies control the internet like puppeteers could be devastating. I've only barely touched the basics of this important subject, just enough to bring the topic up and hopefully get you interested. A ton of great information about the topic is available at Save the Internet. I encourage you to go read more and tell your friends about it.
Please feel free to contribute your thoughts in the comments.