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Waving goodbye to Net Neutrality

Postman Pat

Postmen: Not network neutral.

Yesterday the fight for Net Neutrality took a turn for the worse, when the Department of Justice announced they were against the the idea that all Internet sites should be equally accessible by any user, which is the idea that makes the Internet such a great idea in the first place.

“The agency said providing different levels of service is common, efficient and could satisfy consumers” reported The Associated Press. “As an example, it cited that the U.S. Postal Service charges customers different guarantees and speeds for package delivery, ranging from bulk mail to overnight delivery.”

Does anyone really want the Internet to become more like our decrepid postal systems? I for one can live without the Web becoming artificially clogged up during the holidays because too many people are using it to send prioritized e-cards.

The DoJ didn’t mention that the Internet actually works much more like a telephone system, not a postal system, which is network neutral, and doesn’t charge customers different guarantees and speeds for package delivery. Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, summed up how the phone system might work if it wasn’t bult this way:

“Let’s say you call Joe’s Pizza and the first thing you hear is a message saying you’ll be connected in a minute or two, but if you want, you can be connected to Pizza Hut right away. That’s not fair, right? You called Joe’s and want some Joe’s pizza. Well, that’s how some telecommunications executives want the Internet to operate, with some Web sites easier to access than others.”

The end of Net Neutrality would create an artificial barrier to entry online which would stop small businesses from competing on a level playing field. It is protectionism of the worst kind, but the DoJ sees it differently. “Whether or not the same type of differentiated products and services will develop on the Internet should be determined by market forces, not regulatory intervention,” the agency said in its filing. But this isn’t really about market forces – which often work better on the Internet than they do in the real world. The end of Net Neutrality would also mean the telcos would have control of what you see and hear online, not you. But they wouldn’t abuse this kind of power, right?

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