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by Bob Ellis

Q. What is this “net neutrality” I keep hearing about?

A. Net neutrality is an example of technology-based policy issue. Internet services are classified by the FCC as “information services” (as opposed to telephone service, which is classified as a “telecommunications service“). As such there is minimum regulation of the Internet.

Services such as telephone, US Mail, etc. are classified as “common carriers”. This means that such services are open to all on a nondiscriminatory basis after a customer has paid the posted price and can be assured their message or package will be delivered with the same priority as all others paying for the same class of service. Some believe the Internet has become such an important form of communication that it should be afforded some of the same protections as common carriage.

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is under no obligation to provide equal treatment for any sender or receiver except as described in the terms of service. Others feel that the Internet has evolved to its current state because there has been no regulation of services. Of course there are many possible positions ranging from highly regulated to the current situation.

The best way to find out more is the Internet. A Google search of “net neutrality” returns over 19 million entries. The first few are interesting and useful. Better results can be obtained by searching for “against net neutrality” and “for net neutrality”.

Published: Courier 1/2/11 - Page 5C