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I am sure that many of you will have heard the phrase “Network Neutrality” bounced around a lot. But what does it mean exactly to be neutral? What is it the ISPs are kicking up such a fuss about?
Well, since the "dot com bubble" burst, so to speak, we have had an awful lot of infrastructure and bandwidth to play with. This, and the massive roll out of broadband Internet connections through technologies such as cable and ADSL have lead to a rapid increase in both the amount and type of content on the web.
Seven years ago it could take minutes to load a page with a 56k modem if it had more than a few small JPEGs on it. Now, studies show that on average we're disappointed if a page takes more than three seconds to load. We have digital images everywhere in high resolutions, Internet radio and podcasting is widespread (although seemingly under threat), and streaming videos galore dot the online landscape. We enjoy the richest content the Internet or any other media service has ever been able to provide.
Most of the sites on the web now operate on a similar model, deriving their revenues from advertising rather than content subscriptions. And most of us have come to expect not to pay (at least directly) for the content we view over the Internet. Everyone is happy. The ISPs get a regular monthly income from us, the content providers get regular streams of viewers and generate ad revenues, and we get our kid with a golf ball retriever as a light saber.
But dark times are ahead...
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