Google, Facebook, Amazon et al fight to protect net neutrality, but why?


There is a lot of controversy when it comes to net neutrality right now. Who really controls the Web? The answer should be no one in a net-neutral online world, but there are various special interests at work that are hampering this ideal.

Tom Wheeler, who is the FCC chairman, has been under scrutiny from tech companies as he proposed a deal that would allow broadband providers to give special offers to Internet companies. These offers would involve preferential treatment, or paid prioritization, related to bandwidth access.

This basically means that some ISPs and their consumers would have access to Internet fast lanes while others would not. Open Internet advocates are against this because companies with more funds would be at a position to control aspects of Web traffic and in general this move would be based on who has deeper pockets. A toll would also potentially be imposed on certain companies from ISPs.

However, consumers have been paying for faster online access and better services for two-or-so decades. So, how does allowing companies the ability to provide their consumers with better services at cost differ from when consumers had to opt to either choose broadband or 56k at a lower price? This is a question that many are asking and whether this is really anything to get excited about when it comes to net neutrality.

The big difference here, however, is this battle isn't being raged among consumers and their online providers or ISPs (with choice or market demand involved on the consumers part), but between Internet companies and phone/cable Internet providers - also with content providers and bandwidth suppliers. If Netflix uses a lot more bandwidth than the average person, shouldn't it be charged for it or be able to have a faster lane for its services? This seems like the issue here: whether a toll exists on such service providers.

"We've this series of pipes through which all of the content produced by Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon flows. At the moment one rate and one rate only is charged for that traffic, that's what net neutrality means," Forbe's Tim Worstall said.

Various tech companies wrote a letter to the FCC expressing their concerns. These companies include Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix and more.

"According to recent news reports, the Commission intends to propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers to discriminate both technically and financially against Internet companies and to impose new tolls on them," the tech companies wrote in their letter. "If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the Internet."

This really seems to be less about net neutrality, but special interests involved between ISPs and tech companies using their services. However, others may disagree. After all, when certain companies are forced to pay tolls others can go down or not able to compete with the giants. The companies using most bandwidth or who are benefitting the most from certain services -- but who may not have a lot of funds or are in their startup stages -- seem like the ones who should be most worried.

Discrimination between services and networks is definitely something that could hamper the ideal of net neutrality, but at the same time some companies are using a lot more bandwidth than others and benefitting. Competition is good, but maybe offering a toll on those larger companies would create more of it than less? Fast lanes or preferential treatment, on the other hand, would definitely be something that would hamper the ability for many companies to compete. This is a controversial issue, however, let's hope the Internet remains as neutral as possible for the time being. 

There is currently a vote that is scheduled to take place in the commission that has been getting delayed and put on hold for various reasons. The vote will decide this issue. 

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