Net Neutrality: Trying to figure out the issue

There is a lot of ideology in the technology of the Internet. The Free Software Foundation can provide an illustration. When it comes to hardware and infrastructure, most realize that totally free just doesn’t provide the equiment or maintenance required. So there is an argument about what it should cost and how to protect access by everyone.

Net neutrality is the name given to a question of how much market freedom should exist in the I’net backbone. Right now, wholesale pricing is based on traffic volume with some adjustment for peak volume capability. The argument is about whether or not the communications service providers should also be able to base their pricing on the type of traffic.

Traffic type pricing is being made an issue because of both a need and a capability.

The capability is an upgraded version of the protocols that define how information goes through the net. It expands the address space or number of places it can direct traffic to and it provides a means so that the devices that route it to where it is going can tell how urgent it is.

The need is for support of VOIP, which is telephone service using the I’net, and live media, which can potentially replace the current cable TV delivery methods. These I’net uses are critically dependent on time delays and a large part of the net neutrality argument is about whether this need for low latency could be sold as a premium service at a premium price.

Those spouting that they are advocates of “net neutraility” are of the opinion that all I’net traffic should treated the same way and priced only on volume.

The keys that should raise the skepticism level include the name given to this issue (net neutraility) and the fact that it is very difficult to get a clear explanation of the issues. The fundamental question is that of how much the government should control communications companies’ business practice in regards to the I’net. It is, in part, a hangover from the time when the only communications available to the average household was a telephone line. The residue of that still exists in regulation, law, and public perception.

These days, the telephone company that was busted apart to promote competition is now aggregating back together via merger and buyout. But they face brand new challenges in that household communications is being served by cable TV and cell phone and satellite companies.

So the question is whether to mandate that communications companies consider all the I’net traffic they carry as neutral – every bit of data is the same as every other bit – or whether they should be allowed to charge extra to those who are willing to pay more for a greater assurance of prompt delivery or other benefits.

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