Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nothin' But Net...Neutrality

This week’s reading, “The Political Economy of the Inflection Point” by Cowhey and Aronson discusses how political economy policy is changing within the U.S. In particular, I found the discussion of net neutrality to be quite interesting.

The authors state that net neutrality is based on two key issues; the first being that flat-rate pricing should guarantee that both high-volume and low-volume users are all being charged the same rate at any specific network speed. The second issue states that networks should not block, nor delay access to websites.

It is no surprise that many proponents of net neutrality include consumer advocates as well as companies such as Google and Yahoo which thrive on consumers having uninhibited access to their websites and applications. Opponents of net neutrality largely include cable and telecommunication companies that claim that they can only achieve innovation, and provide high-quality services to consumers through tiered services.

Net neutrality is essential because a free and open internet allows for democratic discourse on issues of importance. If the internet did not allow the open discussion of ideas, our democratic freedoms would be stifled and we would not be at liberty to easily express our opinions. Think about it, if a companies such as Verizon or Comcast were legally entitled to govern the speed of certain websites, how can we be sure that this control would not be used to serve their own agendas. This is similar to previous class discussions on the role of MNCs in international media distribution, where MNCs fail to provide consumers with truly objective information. Network owners could potentially block competitor’s websites, which would lead to a handful of powerful companies controlling the content to which we are exposed. Just as a functioning public sphere is essential to democracy, the technology that supports the public sphere must be open and free from influence. Therefore, net neutrality is essential to democracy and must be protected.

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