Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Network Neutrality...What?

As I read Peter Cowhey and Jonathon Aronson's excerpts from Transforming Global Information and Communication Markets: The Political Economy of Innovation, I could not help but be slightly confused by the jumble of economic terms and concepts that are foreign to me, a student whose expertise are no where near up to par when it comes to economics. The concept I did understand and am interested in is network neutrality. However, even this term can be confusing and I was led to outside sources for a clearer definition.

Of course, for simple definitions I went to where everyone heads to begin research, Wikipeda (I did of course verify the sources!). Net neutrality is simply the effort that the Internet be free of any form of restrictions on content, platforms, or access. According to the Federal Communications Commission, net neutrality is the principle that "consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice, run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement, connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network, and competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers".

There are two sides to every story. Proponents of network neutrality argue that the users will finally be in control, not the companies who work for profits and often attempt to block internet usage. Net neutrality would prevent providers from backing up, slowing down, or dismantling certain services to consumers, regardless of who "controls" the content. Opponents of network neutrality maintain that such laws would prohibit further innovation and improvement of services. Companies will have no desire to increase technology or services if they will not be able to make a profit from charging users different amounts of fees.

Network Neutrality has recently received much coverage due to efforts by the Bush and Obama administration. The Obama administration stands firmly committed to curbing the profits of internet companies who charge different prices for services provided, and often block internet access. The administration advocates a "level playing field" for all firms and consumers to have the same ability to access content at equal prices. Members of his own party remain on the fence, as some believe the legislation would prevent further growth and innovation, joining in with many Republicans with the same view of opposing increased web regulation. Net neutrality will continue to remain a hot topic throughout the year.

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