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"Net Neutrality" and Congress

The issue of "net neutrality" is going to become increasingly more important as giant corporations battle to gain advantage in this new media and telecommunications landscape. Ken Yarmosh has a good piece today that gives a decent overview of the playing field:

The term 'network neutrality' relates to the regulation of the Internet or more specifically, to the underlying networks that make the Internet possible. Described by one of its more popular supporters David Isenberg, a former AT&T executive, network neutrality "means that the network does not discriminate among different types of traffic based on the traffic's source, destination or content."

In consideration of this definition, to this point network neutrality has essentially been a guiding principle of the Internet. Network providers like Verizon or Qwest have not "discriminated" against different types of network traffic - they have not prioritized content of one site or one content provider over another. Internet users can access websites and content from Google and Yahoo! on equal terms. But without the principle of network neutrality in place, how that content gets served might vary based on how much these and other companies were willing to pay.

Telcos like Verizon argue that they should be able to control how their networks operate. They are the ones investing billions of dollars into network infrastructure. When Yahoo! offers users streaming video that is bandwidth intensive, Verizon sees higher traffic and network use but not necessarily higher profits. They want to change that and pricing their service at different levels - 'discriminating' network traffic - is their answer.

This issue has been rolling under the radar for a while now and I see little chance that Congress and the Judiciary will not have to insert themselves into this battle at some point in the next 2-5 years.