What’s Net Neutrality?
In January 2003, law professor Tim Wu coined the term “net neutrality” to describe one position in a brewing legal battle over the fate of the internet. The basic idea is that:
internet service providers (ISPs) should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites. I.e., they should be neutral about the data they pass on to end users.
Of course, to the business folks at the world’s ISPs, this looks like a big lost monetization opportunity. And to those individuals and businesses who rely on the internet to run their businesses, it looks like exactly the way it should be.
Which leads us to the present (and ongoing) battle between Team Internet and Team Cable.
On one side, Team Cable: telecommunications giants like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and Time-Warner, all determined to find more ways to monetize the internet.
To, in other words, turn the internet into a worldwide version of cable television, where you can buy a basic package to get access to the “essentials,” but have to upgrade your service to get those “premium” websites.
Where sites without the money or influence to sway internet providers to make them “basic” are relegated to a worldwide “slow lane” where aggressive bandwidth throttling would render painstaking performance optimization and UX improvements meaningless.
On the other side of this battle, Team Internet: people like you and me, and the companies we work for.
People who believe that the internet is literally the best thing since sliced bread. Actually — since the wheel.
Yeah, the wheel.
Because think about it: the wheel wasn’t just important because it freed people and things to move relatively quickly over vast distances. It mattered even more because it freed ideas and knowledge to move relatively quickly over vast distances.
And the internet has dramatically improved that speed of idea distribution, of sharing. In fact, today we produce and share more information daily than we did for all of pre-internet history.
Thankfully, we’ve got some pretty great company on our side too. Or rather, companies.
The list is seriously lengthy, so I won’t bore you with the whole thing, but I will call out a few luminaries, like:
- The ACLU
And the list goes on. And on.