Net Neutrality

In a Nutshell
by David Yee

Today, no matter how you use the internet, it all costs the same and is delivered at the same rate--that is to say, as fast as the network can handle, given how everyone else is using it. When you check your email, Facebook, or watch videos, it's all the same. This is what is meant by Net Neutrality. Two kinds of parties are interested in changing the rules around Net Neutrality:

Network providers--by which I mean, the DSL or cable modem you use at home--end up paying more as people generally use the internet for more network-intensive things like listening to music or watching TV or movies online. You are billed the same regardless of whether you check email twice a day or listen to music all day long.

Content providers--like CNN, for example--have their content delivered at the same speed and with the same reliability as your blog does, and you pay nothing extra for the privilege. CNN (for example) would like their site to be delivered more reliably and quickly and immediately than yours is. They are willing to pay for that privilege.

Those two parties, working together, propose that certain sites and content providers (like CNN or Hulu or YouTube) could have their traffic prioritized, meaning that the data would be delivered more quickly and more reliably to viewers. A cable can deliver a certain amount of data every second. Right now, it's first-come-first-server. Abandoning Net Neutrality would allow parties to prioritize what goes first--cutting in line.

For us, this means either that as publishers, our content will be delivered more slowly and less reliably as traffic on the Internet increases; or that as viewers, our cable companies or network providers could actually bill us directly to ensure our digital video is delivered smoothly, or that news sites are snappy, or even to use sites like Facebook or YouTube or Hulu.

Basically, the concept of Net Neutrality proposes that all traffic is treated equally and is billed and taxed at the same rate for both customers and content providers. Network providers could raise rates across the board and protect Net Neutrality, or they could bill selectively--rewarding deep-pocketed content providers and penalizing small sites and home users.