If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, you may have heard about net neutrality. As it was first explained to me, telecom companies didn’t think it was fair that bandwidth-hogging, content-providing web sites (think Google) didn’t have to pay for their traffic that travels over the telco infrastructure. So I pay Qwest, for example, to access Google. Google serves up the content through their connection to the internet, whatever that is, and the data travels through the internet, eventually arriving at Qwest’s network and then my PC. This is net neutrality. Some of the more vocal telecom companies, however, want to also charge Google for sending the content over their network. In essence, double-charging and wringing every bit of money possible out of their network infrastructure. It’s no wonder, then, that companies such as Google and Amazon are firmly opposed to this and have been pressuring Congress to pass a net neutrality bill that outlaws it.
Since this original explanation, however, net neutrality has undergone a transformation. Without a net neutrality law in place, the internet would become a two-tier network, where content providers have to pay for preferential treatment. Thus Google, paying for this privilege, would find its content served up in much the same way it is today. While Chad’s News, which cannot afford such extravagant services, would be relegated to a “slower” internet. The best explanation of this is in the linked video of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. From the video, “The point is that with net neutrality all internet packets – whether they come from a big company or a single citizen – are treated in the exact same way.” (Note that there is some off-color humor in the clip, and the real meat of the issue starts about halfway through.)
So the push is on in Congress. The current efforts to get net neutrality passed as law have failed, but we can expect to see it come up again later this year.