Justifications and Action Plan Net Neutrality Research Paper

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¶ … Justifications & Action Plan

Net neutrality is the principle that internet users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the internet. Net neutrality is also about equal access to the internet. The concept of net neutrality began in 1999 when the technology company, Cisco, developed and introduced to the market a brand new kind of router (Ganley & Allgrove, 2006). This router was unique because it permitted network operators to inspect data packets as they flowed through networks (Ganley & Allgrove, 2006). The ability to inspect the data packets also meant that operators had the capacity to grant or deny access to the network based on preference. Although the internet remains open, large cable and telecommunications companies that own broadband networks in the U.S. have proposed the replacement of the open internet with a system where the large providers can pick and choose which websites will operate in their new "closed" networks. In this world, special access charges will be levied on internet content providers as well as consumers. There are two sides to the debate on net neutrality (Yoo, 2005). On the one hand operators such as Verizon and AT&T, assert that growing demands associated with the internet necessitates a level of investment that can only be realized through the commercialization of the internet. At the other end of the spectrum it is argued that the issue of net neutrality is a more complex situation. Opponents of commercialization are content and service providers such as Yahoo, Ebay, Amazon and Google. Many of these groups assert that access tiering is a threat to the fundamental values of purpose of the internet. The analysis that follows will demonstrate that net neutrality a foundational aspect of the internet and democratic society that if abandoned will have devastating consequences. There are three primary reasons why net neutrality is needed. These three reasons include unrestricted access to information, to prevent access charges and to discourage a duopoly from forming amongst a few large companies.

Introduction

Net Neutrality within the context of public policy has been a topic of a great deal of debate for many years. There are several opinions concerning the concept of net neutrality and the place that it has in shaping public policy. The purpose of this discussion is to present both sides of the argument as it pertains to net neutrality. However, the analysis will demonstrate that net neutrality a foundational aspect of the internet and democratic society that if abandoned will have devastating consequences.

Background: Net Neutrality

The concept of net neutrality began in 1999 when the technology company, Cisco, developed and introduced to the market a brand new kind of router (Ganley & Allgrove, 2006). This router was unique because it permitted network operators to inspect data packets as they flowed through networks (Ganley & Allgrove, 2006). In essence, the new routers allowed operators to allow or deny certain packets from flowing through their networks. Basically, this technology and similar routers that have been developed in recent years allow operators to determine the manner in which data packets are handled for policy or commercial reasons as opposed to network performance reasons (Ganley & Allgrove, 2006). For instance, when packets are from a known or preferred source they can be approved by the operator and packets that are not preferred can be blocked or not given priority (Ganley & Allgrove, 2006).

In addition to the inspection of data packets, "discrimination can also be built into the routing algorithm, which decides where a packet should be forwarded next (Peha, 2007)." The author explains that in some instances packets are sent over the fastest and most reliable path while other packets are sent over slower and less reliable paths. In addition some packets that are deemed undesirable may encounter "black-hole routing," which is the same as completely dropping or ignoring the packet altogether (Peha, 2007). For instance, on occasions where there are many different destinations preferred packets may be sent through servers with the shortest lines. In addition, in some cases, packets are sent to a destination that is inconsistent with the destination that is requested by the sender (Peha, 2007). This tactic is known as redirection. Redirection can occur when a user tries to connect to a server that is no longer operating and the network redirects the packets to another server (Peha, 2007).

The author further explains that in some instances, policies involving net neutrality have had prioritization as a primary focus. In addition, it is apparent the manner in which prioritization is used within the context of algorithms and traffic control. The author points out, however, that in some cases there is discrimination that occurs when prioritization is not apparent. For instance, those networks that want to discriminate can do so by supplying different channels based on the type of traffic flowing over the network. When this is done the preferred of traffic "may be sent over a lightly used wavelength in a fiber optic cable, while other traffic goes over a heavily used wavelength. The channel separation can also be logical instead of physical (Peha, 2007)." The author further explains that the preferred traffic can be transmitted over an independent virtual local area network (VLAN). The information from the preferred traffic can also be sent over a separate service flow in a cable system which functions as an aspect of Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) standard (Peha, 2007).. This is important to point out because internet traffic travels over the same physical channel, however, some logical channels have a higher priority when resources are limited than other logical channels (Peha, 2007).

Regardless of how it is done, the ability to approve or deny data packets on a network is known as access tiering, and this concept is at the center of the debate concerning net neutrality. The author further explains that

"The ability to handle data on different network tiers has ignited a high-profile debate in the United States about whether or not operators should be allowed to discriminate between data packets and, therefore, whether regulatory intervention is needed to constrain how operators run their networks. This debate has prompted many to reconsider what public interest values are promoted by a "non-discriminatory" or "neutral" Internet and whether access tiering threatens that public interest. Importantly, the net neutrality debate is one which is now gaining traction in Europe. It is a debate which takes place in the context of various recent episodes that raise similar policy questions. Episodes such as Yahoo!'s dealings with the French courts on the question of the sale of Nazi memorabilia, Google's forays into China and the debate about who should control ICANN. These episodes force governments, and society, to confront the question of how and whether the Internet should be regulated (Ganley & Allgrove, 2006)."

Basically, Net neutrality is the principle that internet users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the internet. Net neutrality is also about equal access to the internet. Broadband carriers should not be permitted to use their market power to discriminate against competing applications or content. Today, net neutrality is essential to our society. It is the basis of democracy, by which the internet has always been governed by a regulatory regime based on principles of openness and non-discrimination.

Problem Statement

Large cable and telecommunications companies that own broadband networks in the U.S. have proposed the replacement of the open internet with a system where the large providers can pick and choose which websites will operate in their new "closed" networks. In this world, special access charges will be levied on internet content providers as well as consumers. Content and services are what drive broadband internet access adoption. Consumers who subscribe to broadband do so primarily in order to be able to use these innovative new services and to get access to interesting and information-rich content. Allowing the duopoly of cable companies and telecommunications companies to make high-speed internet access a "toll road" will slow the adoption of broadband, limit Americans' access to important information and tools, and damage the leading role that the United States plays in technological innovation goes against basic democratic values. Proponents of net neutrality see the government's role in ensuring that the "open access" net neutrality principle is respected. Critics of the "open access" net neutrality, meanwhile insist regulation is unnecessary and is likely to hinder broadband network development.

Significance of the Problem

The issue of net neutrality is significant because it calls into question some of the rudimentary principles upon which this nation was founded. One of these fundamental principles is the freedom of information. Thomas Jefferson, one of our nation's founders, believed that people should have access to all the information available so that they can make their own informed decisions. How can people make informed decisions if they do not have access to all the information? Access tiering can be… [END OF PREVIEW]

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