New FCC regulations on network neutrality could change the course of U.S. Internet

Posted in J205/J206 with tags , , on 18/03/2010 by Magister Mundi

By Keegan Clements-Housser, University of Oregon SoJC

FCC policy on network neutrality is in the process of changing, and the stakes are nothing less than the face and maybe even the purpose of the Internet itself in the United States.

It would be hard to find a more contentious issue, too. Net neutrality, the idea that access to and usage of the Internet should remain uninhibited and unrestricted by Internet service providers (ISPs), has been the issue front and center in the turbulent, ongoing debate within the information technology industry involving everyone from the ISPs themselves to governmental agencies seeking to protect the free flow of information, with even a few outside parties – like the lobbyists for the film and music industries – showing up to have their say. The debate has been centered on one key question – how much freedom with their Internet habits do customers get when paying for Internet, and how much control are ISPs allowed to exercise on the grounds of owning the infrastructure that consumers use?

To some in the information technology field, like Lane Community College computer engineering major Andrew Worthington, the answer is quite clear.

“[The Internet] is unique,” explained Andrew, “Anyone can say whatever they want, express whatever viewpoint they have, try to convince others of their viewpoint. It’s an incredible resource … if you start to impose limits, if you start to dictate what sites people visit, what applications they use, then that resource starts to lose its value.”

Andrew, and other computer savvy individuals just entering into the information technology field, are often the most vocal to insist that all Internet users be allowed to use the programs and visit the websites of their choosing – and they also have the most to gain or lose from any changes. Like many of his peers, he uses applications that consume a tremendous amount of bandwidth, such as µTorrent, a program that uses torrent file protocols to share files between users, a protocol made controversial by its very visible role in the fight between pirates and the film and music industry.

So far, the FCC seems to have been siding with the views espoused by Andrew and his fellows, as evidenced by the new “fifth principle” (which would prohibit discrimination against consumers by ISPs based on application usage or website choice) regulations proposed by FCC chairman Julius Genachowski last September – but that hasn’t made the debate within the industry any less fierce, or the impact of a decision one way or another less significant.

After all, if ISPs are required to abide by the “fifth principle” regulation and similar measures, they’ll have a plethora of logistical dilemmas on their hands as networks become bogged down, as well as missing out on financial opportunities by not being offered tiered Internet, or faster connections for websites that pay them more for the privilege. If they don’t, they potentially expose consumers to unfair business practices and a curtailing of some of the freedoms that have become synonymous with the Internet.

Even those with the same ideological standing as Andrew don’t necessarily find themselves siding with the proposed FCC regulations, however. It’s never been an easy process, balancing the ideological freedom of the Internet against the practical concerns of running it, as Ray Cesaletti, customer service representative of Emerald People’s Utility District (EPUD) and one-time Internet guru for EPUD’s Eugene Free Network can tell you, and usually practicality trumps idealism.

“They used to call it traffic shaping,” Ray said, “[It's] where you prioritize certain traffic. It’s been done for a long time, you know – small networks do that so that business isn’t hampered by people who use more than their share.”

Even though Ray doubts the motives behind many of the efforts by larger ISPs to undermine network neutrality – “They just want to control things for money,” according to him – and even though he wishes the Internet could be as free of restrictions as Andrew would have it be, he also seems resigned to the fact that practically speaking, even the big ISPs are on to something, much less a smaller provider like his own.

“If you ask me, you have to,” said Ray, “If someone is using more than their share – if more than one person is using more than their share – then you have to [throttle bandwidth], because if you don’t, everything goes down. There just isn’t enough to go around like that.”

With the way things are being set up by the FCC today, he adds, something like the “fifth principle” would never work – or at least, not be enforcable. A better equilibrium has to be reached.

So how is that balance supposed to be struck? Michael Zahendra, a former system and information manager for the Internet security company Symantec, might have an answer if the FCC moved back toward considering broadband Internet to be a public utility rather than an information service. That answer is Public Utility Commissions, or PUCs – organizations with local, legal say in the deployment of Internet infrastructure and its usage, and with that a requirement for transparency on the part of ISPs in their methods. In other words, he thinks they’d keep everyone honest.

“Right now it’s not an honest situation,” said Michael, “You have these extremely powerful corporations hijacking the legal process with armies of lobbyists and special interest groups, and PUCs would give local communities a chance to have a say in how their Internet was going to come to them. It’d also allow them to see the realities of running a network, and would allow them to work with ISPs to make sure that they got their Internet as they want it without the ISPs being run out of town because of costs.”

In regards to the “fifth principle” of the FCC?

“If we had PUCs, companies would never have to worry about needing to discriminate,” Michael continued, “Their communities would either pay more to make up for it or come up with some other solution. Network neutrality as it should be.”

Two Revised Profiles

Posted in J205/J206 with tags , , , on 09/03/2010 by Magister Mundi

Profile I: Ray Cesaletti, Customer Service Representative, Emerald People’s Utility District (EPUD)

The FCC’s recently proposed “fifth principle” regulation is the latest in a string of shifting governmental and industrial perspectives on the issue of network neutrality, or the idea of universally unrestricted Internet access. If made into reality, it would prohibit discrimination by Internet service providers based on the choice of applications or website usage of consumers – and according to Ray Cesaletti, Emerald People’s Utility District Customer Service Representative and one-time Internet tech for the utility company’s Internet provider Eugene Free Network (EFN), it can’t possibly work in its current form.

“Bigger companies than ours have this sort of problem, and even though their main motive for opposing [network neutrality] is definitely so they can make more money, it’s still an issue for them,” says Ray, “and if it’s an issue for them, it’s definitely an issue for us. We already throttle network traffic to computers we identify as being infected with malware – unless the FCC were to force us not to, we’d certainly do the same if someone was taking up ten times more bandwidth than the next guy, and if the FCC did force us not to, we’d be in some serious trouble – we can’t handle that much traffic, even if I’d like it if the Internet really was free.”

Ray joins a growing list of representatives from Internet service providers making their skepticism for the upcoming possibilities of the new “fifth principle” regulation known, citing similar concerns over the potentially negative impact the regulation could have on the maintenance and efficiency of networks industry-wide.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Ray says, “I’m not saying that corporations of any size should be able to control what kind of stuff you access online. I’m just saying that practically speaking, internet providers need to have some sort of control.”

According to Ray, this isn’t the first time that even a utility company founded with the public interest in mind has contemplated – and enacted – such control.

“There’s never been a time when we didn’t throttle bandwidth,” says Ray, “and honestly, for a company our size, we don’t really have a choice. It’s either that or things break. It’s a no brainer.”

Mr. Cesaletti’s concerns won’t manifest until at least later this year, when the FCC convenes to reform Internet regulation.

Profile II: Michael Zahendra, former Symantec System and Information Manager

When Michael Zahendra , a former system and information manager for the Internet security company Symantec, entered the information technology field at the University of Texas, they were “still using removable hard drives the size of serving trays,” and networking was still done exclusively through direct connections using phone lines. In short, the concept of network neutrality, the idea of free, unrestricted access for all Internet users, didn’t exist – all the infrastructure used for computer-to-computer communication was found in publicly-owned phone lines, and was therefore a public service.

The status of dial-up Internet remains as it did then. However, with the rise of broadband Internet, the status of the greater Internet – information service versus public service – has been in a constant state of flux. With the majority of Internet access in the United States coming in the form of broadband, the status has swung definitively toward the information service side of the spectrum with the FCC ruling in 2005 that classified DSL as an information service, despite using phone lines.

The result, according to Michael, has been an industry that, while having valid points in regards to limiting network access to reasonable level for the sake of not getting bogged down in traffic, tends to operate with very little regard for the public interest. His answer? Make sure that the Internet returns in its entirety to a public service.

“It’s pretty simple,” Michael says, “Companies can and do engage in deep packet analysis – the ability to find out what web applications you’re using and what websites you’re visiting – on a regular basis. Symantec did it regularly in its own networks, in addition to monitoring networks with Norton [anti-virus]. All that needs to happen is that the networking trends that companies like Comcast record need to be handed over to the public so we can keep transparency on network infrastructure and activity.”

What happens then? If the Internet was “universally treated like a public service,” the data could be used by Public Utility Councils (PUCs) to set up a dialogue with Internet service providers to ensure the needs of individual communities were met, while still allowing the ISP to protect itself from excessive usage.

“Companies wouldn’t move so quickly for just quarterly profits then,” Michael says, “Their interests would still be protected, and they’d be offering the public a high level of transparency into a public service.”

If implemented, the United States would enter into the league of industrialized nations with publicly-owned, privately operated Internet providers.

(Edited for even more mysteriously disappearing content, broken links, and tags.)

Google takes the high road – and stands to profit from it

Posted in J205/J206 with tags , , , on 15/02/2010 by Magister Mundi

Google is offering to provide ultra high-speed internet to 50,000-500,000 American consumers – and they’re doing it in the name of network neutrality. Long-time supporters of internet fredom, Google’s aims, though arguably noble, also land them a fair amount of financial return – by setting themselves up as paragons of Internet morals and virtue, they can continue to keep their incredibly loyal consumer base while winning more over as they expand into the ISP realms, after all. Perhaps more important, though, is the fact that a victory in the realm of network neutrality – especially if the FCC backs it with new “fifth principle” regulation – could largely eliminate the need for Google to do much extra in the realm of ISP work, as the United States would move away from specific corporate ownership of “the last mile” of infrastructure, which currently allows companies like Comcast to even contemplate the idea of tiered Internet. If Google is successful in its mission, it could stand to win the ability to offer completely unfettered services, like its growing line of web apps. Worth watching, this, and an excellent example of industry involvement in the issue of network neutrality.

Network Neutrality – 10 Sources

Posted in J205/J206 with tags , , , on 12/02/2010 by Magister Mundi

Topic: Network Neutrality

Title: F.C.C. Seeks to Protect Free Flow of Internet Data

New York Times, Sep. 18, 2009

Hansell, Saul http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/19/technology/internet/19net.html?_r=1

Accessed: Feb. 8, 2010

Category: Mainstream Journalistic; news report from the web version of the New York Times

Summary: The FCC is planning on adding a fifth principle to its “four principles” policy of network neutrality – the fifth principle would help ensure that Internet providers don’t discriminate based on usage or application choices made by the consumer. In addition, the FCC is seeking to make the principles more formal and enforceable than they currently are.

Summary of sources

Julius Genachowski, chairman of the FCC

CTIA, the wireless trade group

President Obama

Comcast

These sources include the official government bodies in charge of telecommunications regulations as well as groups affected by said regulations.

Source Analysis

With 14 million readers, the New York Times is no longer simply a local paper for New York City, as it was at its inception in the 1800s. Generally considered left-leaning, it has been argued that this bias is based on the generally liberal atmosphere of its location.

Usefulness

This story explained what the FCC was planning on changing as far as telecommunications policy went, as well as some concerns raised by industry lobbyists and compromises that might be met. It serves as an excellent snapshot of where the debate is at present, and offers insight into where it might head in the future.

Works cited

NY Times media kit: http://www.nytimes.whsites.net/mediakit/online/audience/audience_profile.php

Okrent, Daniel. “Is the New York Times a liberal newspaper?” The New York Times. July 25, 2004. Accessed Feb. 8, 2010

(Not copying you, Tracy, but these were the very first things I checked as well.)


Topic: Network Neutrality

Title: Google Broadband Play Pushes Network Neutrality in Google’s Favor

eWeek, Feb. 11, 2010

Boulton, Clint http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Search-Engines/Google-Broadband-Play-Pushes-Network-Neutrality-in-Googles-Favor-681320/

Accessed: Feb. 11, 2010

Category: Mainstream Journalistic; news report from the web version of eWeek

Summary: Google’s new plans for offering broadband services may be motivated by a desire to protect the company’s policy of protecting network neutrality rather than the more obvious goal of entering into the ISP market.

Summary of sources

Alex Winogradoff , Gartner analyst

Ben Schachter, BroadPoint AmTech analyst

Google

These sources represent analyst opinions and Google’s corporate policy in the nature of Google’s broadband deployment.

Source Analysis

eWeek was previously known as PC Week, and is primarily a computing business magazine. It’s been in circulation since 1983, and continues in its original form to this day. As an industry publication, there’s very little room for bias, as eWeek primarily serves to review the state of the industry based on market analysis and corporate data.

Usefulness

This report shows steps taken by a major member of the industry itself toward network neutrality, highlighting internal support for the potential FCC “fifth principle” regulation. It serves as look into climate of the industry as the FCC tries to deploy new regulation.

Works cited

eWeek’s “About Us” page: http://www.eweek.com/c/a/IT-Management/About-Us/

Owning company Ziff Davis Enterprises page: http://sales.netmediaeurope.com/2008/03/netmediaeurope.html


Topic: Network Neutrality

Title: Google Public Policy Blog

http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/search/label/Net%20Neutrality

Accessed: Feb. 11, 2010

Category: Instution; Google blog releases on corporate public policy concerning network neutrality.

Summary: A string of public policy announcements dating back to summer 2007 in which Google tries to rally support for net neutrality from its clients and customers. Topics includes blog posts explaining why people should care to rallying cries for action in the form of writing the FCC and the like.

Summary of sources

Rick Whitt, Google Washington Telecom and Media Counsel

Megan Stull, Google Telecom Policy Counsel

Eric Schmidt ,Google CEO

Lowell McAdam, Verizon Wireless CEO

Julius Genachowski, FCC Chairman

Vint Cerf, one of the original architects of the Internet

AT&T

These sources represent the most important and recent sources of the blog, covering most of the corporate, governmental, and institutional views on the debate via representatives.

Source Analysis

As the official public policy blog of Google, this source offers a perspective specifically reflecting it’s parent company’s views on the issue.

Usefulness

The official public policy of Google offers a perspective on network neutrality and what the FCC should do about it from inside the industry from a pro-neutrality stance, as well as naming Google’s allies in their objective. This helps me piece together what the general viewpoint on the issue of network neutrality from one far end of the issue.

Works cited

http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/


Topic: Network Neutrality

Title: NETWORK NEUTRALITY: COMPETITION,

INNOVATION, AND NONDISCRIMINATORY ACCESS

United States Congress, Apr. 15 2006

http://uolibraries.worldcat.org/oclc/71202145?page=frame&url=http%3A%2F%2Fpurl.access.gpo.gov%2FGPO%2FLPS73532%26checksum%3D3e891185f39f6af37886caec9dc15ebb&title=&linktype=opacFtLink

Accessed: Feb. 11, 2010

Category: Government; A transcript of the 2006 hearing on the Taskforce on Telecom and Antitrust regarding network neutrality

Summary: A congressional hearing on network neutrality and specifically the risk of ineffective antitrust measures if network neutrality isn’t brought into legal effect, citing the market power, lack of strong regulations, and lobbyist ability on the part of anti-neutrality parties in the telecommunications industry. Arguments are made by both representatives and industry spokespeople both in favor and in opposition to stronger regulations.

Summary of sources

Rep. Chris Cannon

Rep. John Conyers

Paul Misener, Amazon.com Vice President for Global Public Policy

Earl W. Comstock, COMPTEL President and Chief Executive Officer

Walter B. McCormick, Jr., United States Telecom Association President and Chief Executive Officer

These sources represent all major interested parties in the hearing, both governmental and institutional. Other sources not listed are found in the appendix of the report, and are omitted due to their secondary nature.

Source Analysis

As an official transcription of a U.S. Congressional antitrust hearing, there’s no bias whatsoever here, as it’s merely a record of the proceedings.

Usefulness

This is a convenient look at what kind of issues the industry is bringing to the attention of the U.S. Government, as well as what kind of information will be available to other governmental bodies such as the FCC interested in instituting/refining existing regulations.

Works cited

http://judiciary.house.gov


Topic: Network Neutrality

Title: FAQ on Net Neutrality

Susan Crawford blog, May 31 2006

Crawford, Susan http://scrawford.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2006/5/31/1998151.html

Accessed: Feb. 11, 2010

Category: Citizen; a personal blog post from someone who has been a presidential aide and otherwise very involved in the network neutrality debate.

Summary: Susan argues that regulation protecting network neutrality is essential for the health of the Internet as a whole, claiming that pro-neutrality regulations are no less than a “right-to-life” issue – without them, nascent internet users/content producers may not ever be able to come into existing, being throttled as they are by tiered internet.

Summary of sources

Susan Crawford, blog owner and former telecommunications aide to President Obama

Susan references no one in particular, offering only her own opinion and experiences in her blog.

Source Analysis

Susan Crawford is a law professor at the University of Michigan, a former ICANN board member, founder of OneWebDay, and President Obama’s former Special Assistant for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy. She has in-depth, hands-on experience with the network neutrality debate.

Usefulness

This blog post highlights a private (though very well informed and connected) citizen’s views on the issue of network neutrality and its implications. Public opinion like this will undoubtedly play a part in determining what shape FCC regulations take.

Works cited

Wired.com’s look at Crawford: http://www.wired.com/politics/onlinerights/magazine/17-07/mf_cio?currentPage=2

ICANN’s special thanks page: http://www.icann.org/en/minutes/resolutions-07nov08.htm#_Toc55609378

Crawford’s bio page: http://scrawford.net/blog/about/

Topic: Network Neutrality

Title: Before the Federal Communications Commission Washington, D.C. 20554 NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING FCC 09-93

FCC, Oct. 22 2009

http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/epicenter/2009/10/fcc-09-93a1.pdf

Accessed: Feb. 11, 2010

Category: Government; an FCC proposal on network neutrality regulations

Summary: A proposal by an FCC chairmen and four commissioners suggesting, despite some minor internal disagreement, that the “fifth principle” of fair Internet usage be approved as official regulation in order to product Internet users from discrimination based on site or application usage.

Summary of sources

Genachowski, Chairman

Copps, Commissioner

Clyburn, Commissioner

McDowell, Commissioner

Baker, Commissioner

These sources represent different viewpoints within the body of the FCC on what regulations the FCC should adopt.

Source Analysis

This is a governmental transcription of statements; there’s no bias to be had, as with most official governmental releases.

Usefulness

This source highlights an internal opinion on how FCC regulations should be formed, and serves as a look at the possible direction of formal policy making regarding adopting the “fifth principle” and adding stronger enforcement capabilities to existing and new FCC net neutrality policies.

Works cited

http://www.fcc.gov/

Topic: Network Neutrality

Title: NATIONAL CABLE & TELECOMMUNICATIONS
ASSOCIATION et al.
v. BRAND X INTERNET
SERVICES et al.

Supreme Court of the United States, Jun. 27 2005

http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/04-277.ZS.html

Accessed: Feb. 11, 2010

Category: Government; A Supreme Court hearing on the nature of cable Internet

Summary: A Supreme Court hearing on the nature of cable Internet that ultimately came to the conclusion that cable Internet is an information service rather than a telecommunication service, unlike the prior precedent-setting view that dial-up Internet – relying as it does on phone lines – was a telecommunication service. This freed the cable industry from the anti-discrimination regulation already in place, as per the decision of the FCC.

Summary of sources

The Supreme Court of the United States

The singularity of the source is due to this being an official ruling by the court as a whole.

Source Analysis

There is no opinion in the Supreme Court ruling. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has often gone back and forth on the issue of network neutrality, as evidenced by the remanded status of this ruling; there seems to be no bias within the source.

Usefulness

This is an excellent look at historical rulings on regulation enforcement by the FCC in matters of network neutrality. It provides a good background and precedent for what is happening presently in the debate – background rulings (and their outcomes) are what present rulings are based on, after all.

Works cited

http://www.supremecourtus.gov/index.html

Topic: Network Neutrality

Title: U.S. as Traffic Cop in Web Fight: FCC Proposal on Bandwidth a Boon for Consumers and Silicon Valley, Blow to Telecoms

Wall Street Journal, Sep. 21, 2009

Schatz, Amy http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125329467451823485.html#mod=WSJ_hps_LEFTWhatsNews

Accessed: Feb. 8, 2010

Category: Mainstream Journalistic; news report from the web version of the Wall Street Journal

Summary: The FCC is planning on backing consumers by enforcing a ban on ISP discrimination – both favorable and unfavorable – based on website usage or application choices, including on mobile networks. This will likely result in an overloading of mobile networks as available bandwidth is exceeded, as well as investment by mobile companies and more mainstream telecommunication companies in better infrastructure and bandwidth-saving measures. It will also likely result in a flurry of lobbyist-led challenges to the FCC ruling.

Summary of sources

Jonathan Zittrain, Co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

Julius Genachowski, Head of the Federal Communications Commission

CTIA, the wireless trade group

Randolph May, President of Free State Foundation

Chris Guttman-McCabe, CTIA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

AT&T

These sources are comprised of both opponents and supporters of the plans proposed by the FCC. They represent lobbyists and experts, as well as members of the FCC itself – all are individuals that have the potential to weigh in on FCC regulations.

Source Analysis

With over 24 million readers annually, the Wall Street Journal is the most widely read newspaper in the United States. Although long considered a polarized paper (with a traditionally conservative editorial section and liberal news section), its recent acquisition by News Corp. has led to allegations of increasing conservative slant. However, in articles such as those regarding network neutrality, it seems to offer multiple perspectives – conservative, liberal, moderate, and otherwise – in equal measure.

Usefulness

This story explores the possible repercussions of the proposed FCC regulations, and offers context for the issue as a whole.

Works cited

NY Times report: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/14/business/media/14carr.html

Academic review: http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/groseclose/Media.Bias.8.htm

Topic: Network Neutrality

Title: Save the Internet: Frequently Asked Questions

http://www.savetheinternet.com/frequently-asked-questions

Accessed: Feb. 11, 2010

Category: Institution; FAQ list from the website savetheinternet.com, a branch of Free Press

Summary: savetheinternet.com claims that without proper regulations by the FCC, the Internet is at risk of losing its freedom of information – arguably its most valuable point. If discrimination based on website usage and application choice is allowed to become a reality, they claim, it’ll become much like cable TV – paying for extra content.

Summary of sources

Rep. Edward Markey

Rep. Anna Eshoo

William L. Smith, Chief Technology Officer for BellSouth Corp.

Ed Whitacre, Former AT&T Chief

The sources listed include the U.S. Representatives in charge of the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009 and the industry leaders who went on file opposing network neutrality.

Source Analysis

Free Press is a non-partisan, non-profit media advocacy group dedicated to the preservation of network neutrality. Their position is clear.

Usefulness

This is another example of institutional support of network neutrality, this time from an outside group rather than an industry group.

Works cited

Net Neutrality’s Quiet Crusader: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/27/AR2008032703618.html

Topic: Network Neutrality

Title: No net neutrality in National Broadband Plan

The Swine Line, Jun. 8, 2009

Schatz, Tom http://swineline.org/2009/06/08/no-net-neutrality-in-national-broadband-plan/

Accessed: Feb. 10, 2010

Category: Institution; blog post by a member of the Citizens Against Government Waste organization

Summary: The blogger argues that if network neutrality were to become enforced via regulation, the primary effect would be a waste of taxpayer dollars, as offices were specifically set up to monitor for ISP abuses. Further, he contends, network neutrality laws would hamper innovation by the telecommunications industry, as they wouldn’t want to waste money on products they couldn’t control.

Summary of sources

FCC

The only source mentioned in the article is the FCC in regards to its Notice of Inquiry (NOI). Everything else is speculation/opinion.

Source Analysis

The Citizens Against Government Waste are a non-profit partisan advocacy group for fiscal conservative ideals. It has a history of supporting large corporations, and has found itself at the middle of quite a bit of controversy due to allegations of assisting voter fraud, posing as a grassroots organization when it isn’t, and serving as a mouthpiece of corporations, rather than an independent body.

Usefulness

This provides a rare but useful counter view to the seemingly dominant populist support of network neutrality, and provides further context for possible regulations by the FCC.

Works cited

http://www.sptimes.com/2006/04/02/Worldandnation/For_price__watchdog_w.shtml

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/12/AR2006101200889_pf.html

(Edited for clarity, tags, links)

Making Ends Meet

Posted in J205/J206 with tags , , on 22/01/2010 by Magister Mundi

Network Neutrality – A Timeline

Posted in J205/J206 with tags , , , on 14/01/2010 by Magister Mundi

The FCC should enact regulation that prohibits ISPs from discriminating against users based on usage or application choices in order to ensure that no single group or individual gets preferential bandwidth treatment.

1934: The Communications Act of 1934 designates telecommunications as ‘common carriers,’ subjecting them to FCC regulation as well as protecting them from discriminatory business practices. This sets the stage for the shifting status of data transfer reliant on telecommunications for years to come.

1994: Vice President Al Gore proposes the idea of “net neutrality” at the UCLA Electronic Summit, suggesting that the nascent Internet be a open, equal-opportunity playing field for industrial and public purposes.

1996: Net neutrality as a concept is formally introduced for the first time in the text of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 .

2004: FCC Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell introduces the idea of the “Four Freedoms” of network neutrality. Although somewhat loosely defined, they represent the view the FCC is to take on network neutrality for the coming years.

2005 (June): In the Supreme Court case National Cable & Telecommunications Association v. Brand X Internet Services, cable Internet is defined as an information service rather than a telecommunication service, freeing it from anti-discrimination regulation.

2005 (August): The FCC declares DSL, previously considered a telecommunication service by virtue of operating on phone lines, to be an information service as well. Simultaneously, the FCC adopts an amendment to the “Four Freedoms” policy, declaring that all four must yield to “reasonable network management.”

2006: The Senate Commerce Committee approves the Telecommunications and Opportunities Reform Act, a middle-ground act aimed at appeasing both sides of the growing net neutrality divide without inflaming the issue further.

2007: The Federal Trade Commission warns against the potential economic repercussions of legislation-backed net neutrality in an annual report.

2008: The FCC rules that Comcast, in pending litigation from a 2007 case raised against them for blocking or severely limiting internet access for customers running applications utilizing BitTorrent software, was acting illegally by influencing how customers could access the Internet.

2009: President Obama sets a precedent for the direction the Internet should take by establishing Recovery.gov to help ensure a high level transparency and accountability in the allocation and use of funds outlined in the Recovery Act specifically through the use of the Internet.

Search, but You May Not Find (The importance of net neutrality applies not only to ISPs, but also to search providers such as Google. Without net neutrality legislation in place, such search providers can conceivably dictate what kind of content the public can access, or at least find.)

RIAA: Net neutrality shouldn’t inhibit antipiracy (File sharing battles are greatly affected by net neutrality as well – lobbyists from the recording industry seek to lessen net neutrality regulations so that companies are free to combat data piracy.)

Why the Right Is Wrong About Net Neutrality (Net neutrality is starting to become a partisan issue as the political parties line up on one side or another, adding another level of complication to an already complex issue.)

Comments Roll In on FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules (Industry and consumer responses to FCC legislation defending net neutrality are often drastically different and diverse even within their respective groups. Polarization by the parties only goes so far.)

Comcast, FCC take net neutrality dispute to court (Internet service providers are held responsible by the FCC for maintaining free access to the Internet, reinforcing neutrality principles on an infrastructural level.)

The nature of net neutrality is complex and multifaceted, as seen in the diverse selection of news stories on the topic. Topics range from the standard infrastructural concerns expressed by the stories on ISPs (Comcast) and the information industry to the related commercial interests of and impact on other industries such as the RIAA (specifically in its war against data piracy) and the idea of neutrality on the web itself, and represented by the great degree in which search engines control access to content. The controversy over the importance and form of net neutrality also naturally begins to bleed over into partisan politics with its great importance to each of the party’s constituents, as represented in opinion pieces in partisan news sources, such as the Huffington Post article listed above.

(Note: Edited for accidentally removed content, clarity, and tags.)



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