Net Neutrality Gets a Second Hearing - Momentum for Net Neutrality
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The Congress’ new Democratic majority is a major factor that restored the wind to the sails of the Internet Freedom Preservation Act. But it’s not the only one. When AT&T merged with BellSouth, the Federal Communications Commission put some conditions on that merger before approving it at the end of December 2006. One of these conditions obligates the merged company to agree not to offer any service that “privileges, degrades, or prioritizes any packet” traveling over its broadband service for at least two years. In short, the FCC told the two companies that they will practice net neutrality if they want to complete their merger.
Now is the time when “Congress should act swiftly to make permanent the Net neutrality conditions of the AT&T merger and apply them to all broadband providers,” insists Jeannine Kenney, senior policy analyst with Consumers Union. Indeed, many advocates for consumers – or those who would position themselves as such – are staunchly in favor of this legislation. Without it, they fear that the Internet would get more expensive, with broadband service providers charging more for access to certain content and services, effectively cutting publishers and consumers off from each other.
Indeed, much of the rhetoric about net neutrality describes how the Internet delivers a level playing field to everyone. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) waxes eloquent on the topic, observing that “under these conditions [neutrality and non-discrimination] a small business has been able to market to the same customers as the biggest corporation. The average citizen has been able to voice their grievances in the same forum as the editors of the largest newspaper. And students, entrepreneurs and consumers have been empowered by the wealth of information and opportunities afforded by an open Internet.”
Many ordinary people, small businesses, and content providers are in favor of net neutrality. But this isn’t just a case of many Davids versus the Goliaths of the telecommunications companies. Weighing in on the side of the content providers in favor of net neutrality are Google, Amazon, Yahoo, eBay, and other giants. In a sense, these content providers don’t want to pay for the cost of their own popularity.
There’s more to it than that, though. Larger companies might be able to afford paying for “the kinds of faster Internet service that will enable consumers to more quickly download videos and play games,” as the New York Times describes it. But smaller companies can’t. They will either not create the kinds of services that would bring on discriminatory pricing, or pass the costs on to consumers. Such a state of affairs would bring about a less diverse and competitive Internet, and perhaps make web surfing less of an adventure of discovery.
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