Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Net Neutrality and Pirates

CNN reports that the FCC voted last week to begin studying new rules to protect an open internet. These "net neutrality" rules would limit the way internet service provides could limit access to the world's series of tubes. Specifically,

the proposal itself uses the FCC's open Internet principles as a foundation and would forbid network operators from restricting access to lawful Internet content, applications, and services. It would also require network providers to allow customers to attach non-harmful devices to the network.

Two additional principles were added, which would prevent network providers from discriminating against particular Internet content or applications, while at the same time allowing for reasonable network management. Internet access providers would also have to be transparent about the network management practices they implement.

What exactly is the problem the FCC is trying to address? Well, say for instance you got your internet from Time Warner Cable. Back in the day when people actually used AOL to search the internet, TWC might want you to use that service rather than Google or Yahoo. So they might make it hard for you to access google.com. From what I can understand, the original 2 principles the FCC considered prohibited the ISP from outright blocking the content, and the additional principle makes it so they can't slow down access to select sites either.

Seems like a good idea, no? Well John McCain, who is the nation's biggest beneficiary of Telco/ISP money (by far), has introduced the ironically named Internet Freedom Act of 2009 (because it keeps the internet "free from government interference"). Nevertheless, I think net neutrality has a good chance of passing (eventually). In fact, Verizon and Google have become unlikely bedfellows and issued a statement of support for net neutrality.

In the US, this issue is just taking off, and even so is taking a back seat in the public eye to health care reform. In Europe, however, it is a major issue. It is one of the main agendas of the Pirate Party, founded recently in Sweden, and now the country's 3rd largest political party. In fact, the party received enough votes in the 2009 European Parliament elections to get 1, maybe 2, seats in Parliament.

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