This Week Sees the End of Net Neutrality

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June 11th, 2018 - US officially repeals net neutrality rules. Here's a quick overview of Net Neutrality, with the pros and cons...

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There is much discussion of “Net Neutrality” and the need for such when it comes to Internet service delivery. Net Neutrality in its simplest form is described in Wikipedia as:

a principle that is applied to residential broadband networks, and potentially to all networks. A neutral broadband network is one that is free of restrictions on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, on the modes of communication allowed, which does not restrict content, sites or platforms, and where communication is not unreasonably degraded by other communication streams

While Net Neutrality is usually associated with the Internet and ISP’s, verbiage describing the same concept can be traced back to the days of the telegraph. The concept of network freedom is one that for many years of Internet evolution was a given for all involved.

In the wake of discovering that cable providers such as Comcast, or Cox, that have at one time or another capped, restricted or in other ways interfered with certain kinds of Internet traffic, renewed calls for legislation guaranteeing some sort of user protections have emerged. The cable providers assert that peer-to-peer file sharing traffic (P2P) is responsible for a small number of subscribers using the majority of bandwidth at any time on the network and that controls need to be put in place to assure adequate bandwidth for the rest of their users. Other carriers have insinuated that content providers and other large bandwidth users such as Google, should be charged a fee if their traffic traverses certain carrier networks.

Proponents of Net Neutrality argue that it is necessary to ensure that broadband providers, which often have a near-monopoly, will not disfavor certain types of traffic in favor of their own. There have been reports of foreign ISP’s that block VoIP traffic to stifle competition with their traditional voice services. Vinton Cerf, one of the co-inventors of the TCP/IP network protocol which the Internet uses to route traffic is a vigorous supporter of Net Neutrality.

Opponents of Net Neutrality argue that government regulation is not the best solution, and that competition and innovation may be hampered with rules that are designed to prevent something bad from happening, but that may have some unforeseen results. Legislation that is designed to address a technological issue often fails or becomes obsolete due to the lack of technical insight by the legislature.

Both the FTC and the FCC were keeping an eye on legislative developments and on the carriers to protect the consumer and offer input on the current state of the carrier industry.

In an opinion piece published on CNET, Mr Pai (who chairs the FCC) – in the many years of net growth before the neutrality rules “Facebook, Amazon, and Google went from small start-ups to global tech giants”. 

“America’s internet economy became the envy in the world,” he said. 

Repealing the rules would be good for consumers, he added, because it would lift regulations that stopped some telecoms companies investing. 

Well, today (June 11th, 2018), US officially repeals net neutrality rules. The End. 

Well kinda…

Washington’s law on treating data equally went into force as the federal rules expired. And three other states, California, New York and Illinois, plan to pass their own versions soon.

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