Here are three pictures of the Internet in the U.S.A., as it could be in the future.
The first picture is the Internet with net neutrality, where no one’s data gets priority over another’s1. This is the kind of Internet we have always had. In this picture CNN is the Cable News Network, a large news company, and GNN is the Guerrilla News Network, a small news company. For these examples, AT&T is the internet service provider for CNN and GNN. The two news companies pay AT&T to hook their host computers to the Internet2. CNN pays more than GNN, because CNN has more traffic. At the other end of the picture are two Internet users, one watching a CNN news video and the other a GNN news video. AT&T is the only DSL provider in these users’ neighborhoods3, and each user pays AT&T for the service. Almost all parties are happy. CNN is happy because it has high traffic. GNN is happy because its traffic is growing. The DSL users are happy because they can watch the news reports they want without waiting very long. AT&T should be happy, because it is making money on both ends, but greed is gnawing at AT&T4. AT&T figures it could make more money without net neutrality, and is lobbying Congress to ban it5. But many citizens groups, Internet content providers and users6, and Congressmen are fighting to keep net neutrality and this picture of the free-flowing, democratic Internet7.
The second picture is the Internet without net neutrality. This is the future where AT&T and the other telecoms have lobbied Congress to do away with net neutrality. Here, AT&T has put in a filter to give priority to data packets from companies that have paid an extra ransom8. CNN pays the ransom to AT&T to keep up with the other large companies. GNN, as a small company, does not pay the ransom. The Internet user watching the CNN video finds that it runs fine, but the user watching the GNN video finds that it loads more slowly and stalls during play9. The GNN user is no longer happy because he has to wait. GNN is no longer happy, because its traffic is no longer growing, as users get tired of waiting and try another web site. AT&T is now happy because its Internet revenues are up 50%. This is the picture of the crippled Internet that squeezes the little Internet companies, and limits users’ choices.
The third picture also shows a future without net neutrality, but after GNN has posted negative reports about AT&T. In response, AT&T has programmed its filter to block GNN‘s data packets and drop them in the “bit bucket10“. Here GNN and the GNN user are very unhappy – and angry. This is the picture of the death of the Internet where the big telecom companies control what can be seen.
‘Net Neutrality Reading Room’ – Center for Democracy & Technology More detailed diagrams.
1 ‘FAQ: What is network neutrality?’ – SaveTheInternet.com Network Neutrality — or “Net Neutrality” for short — is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet. Net Neutrality ensures that all users can access the content or run the applications and devices of their choice. With Net Neutrality, the network’s only job is to move data — not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service. Net Neutrality is the reason why the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation, and free speech online. It’s why the Internet has become an unrivaled environment for open communications, civic involvement and free speech.
2 ‘Net Neutrality Reading Room’ – Center for Democracy & Technology More detailed diagrams.
3 ‘FAQ: Won’t more regulations harm the free Internet? Shouldn’t we just let the market decide?’ – SaveTheInternet.com And when the network owners start abusing their control of the pipes, there’s nowhere else for consumers to turn. The cable and telephone companies already dominate 98 percent of the broadband market. Only 53 percent of Americans have a choice between cable and DSL at home. Everyone else has only one choice or no broadband options at all. That’s not what a truly free market looks like.
4 ‘FAQ: Who wants to get rid of Net Neutrality?’ – SaveTheInternet.com The nation’s largest telephone and cable companies — including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner — want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won’t load at all. They want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. They want to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video — while slowing down or blocking their competitors.
5 ‘FAQ: What’s happening in Congress?’ – SaveTheInternet.com The telephone and cable companies are filling up congressional campaign coffers and hiring high-priced lobbyists. They’ve set up “Astroturf” groups like “Hands Off the Internet” to confuse the issue and give the appearance of grassroots support.
- Petition Signers: 760,436
- Coalition Groups: 437
- Blog Links: 5,315
- MySpace Friends: 9,144
7 ‘Guest post from Rep. Zoe Lofgren’ – SaveTheInternet.com Blog, 26 May 2006 Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 5417, the “Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006,” which I introduced with Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, Ranking Member John Conyers and Rep. Rick Boucher last week. This is the first bill with real protections for Net Neutrality that has passed any committee in Congress, and I am proud to be a part of it.
8 ‘Blocking Innovation’ – SaveTheInternet.com “William L. Smith, chief technology officer for Atlanta-based BellSouth Corp., told reporters and analysts that an Internet service provider such as his firm should be able, for example, to charge Yahoo Inc. for the opportunity to have its search site load faster than that of Google Inc.” – The Washington Post
9 ‘How does this threat to Internet freedom affect you?’ – SaveTheInternet.com A charity’s website could open at snail-speed, and online contributions could grind to a halt, if nonprofits can’t pay dominant Internet providers for access to “the fast lane” of Internet service.
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