Make Net Neutrality a Reality

After numerous deaths in committee, failed amendments and missed opportunities, network neutrality is returning to the foreground as a key priority of President-elect Barack Obama's technology agenda. Senators Byron Dorgan and Olympia Snowe have also stated their intention to reintroduce legislation on the issue. With a new administration and a new Congress, the time has come for Washington to finally enact meaningful network neutrality regulation. Network neutrality principally requires Internet service providers (ISPs) treat all legal Internet traffic equally, regardless of content, source or destination. It guarantees consumers’ rights to use their bandwidth how they see fit. Whether paying your electric bill, watching viral videos or chatting with a friend, the network should faithfully facilitate the data transfer without interference. Network neutrality, an essential part of the Internet since its inception, has been in jeopardy since 2005 when a series of FCC and Supreme Court rulings eliminated the existing non-discriminatory regulations that applied to Internet providers. At the time, cable and telephone companies cheered the decisions, stating publicly their desires to see a less open Internet. Executives from BellSouth, AT&T and Verizon promoted the concept of a tiered Internet, where the service provider could arbitrarily speed up, slow down or block traffic depending on business arrangements. With a tiered system, an Internet provider could set up an exclusive arrangement making, for example, Yahoo the preferred search engine. The ISP...

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