The background to Net Neutrality

Posted by Karen on Jul 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM
Network Neutrality - the principle that internet users can access any web content/application they choose without restrictions or limitations imposed by the ISP’s or government, has been a hotly  debated topic over the last 18 months. There are two opposing views on network neutrality. Those against ‘deregulators’ have traditionally been incumbent telecom companies - keen to charge website operators and application manufacturers  for smooth access and direct users to favoured content. On the other hand there are the ‘open-ists’ who are in favour of executing a neutral system. Two companies who strongly uphold the principle of net neutrality are Microsoft and Google. Microsoft make the applications that sit outside of the core network, therefore they want transparency, end to end connection, without any interference. Google don’t want the ISP’s to have the control and have the ability to direct users to certain searches. Internationally we are witnessing governments taking different approaches to the issue. In June 2010, the National Congress of Chile became the first country in the world to preserve network neutrality. More recently, in June 2011, the majority of the Dutch parliament voted for new net neutrality laws which prohibit the blocking of internet services or the manipulation of internet traffic. However, both Spain and the US seem to be moving away from implementing neutrality laws; Telefonica’s CEO has expressed that his company may charge Google and other search engines for the use of the ISP’s network. In the US, although the government have banned ISP’s from blocking certain websites, the ISP’s are still charging web operators higher prices for faster access. The principle of network neutrality is infringed most markedly in authoritarian states - where web traffic is subjected to the same suppressive measures as more traditional forms of media. A recent example of  this infringement can be found in The Egyptian Revolution - where the government attempted to shut down social media sites altogether. Domestically, the issue of network neutrality is rising in prominence as a result of network congestion. With internet in the UK  used increasingly for voice and video services, as well as other rich content, high bandwidth applications – we create what we might term ‘internet traffic jams’, which certain operators alleviate by prioritising  some traffic over others, i.e slow lane/fast lane. Network Neutrality  is as a fascinating, multi-tenanted issue. Arguments for and against involve consideration of number issues, from the technical and logistical to the economic and political. Fluidata is proud to operate as a Net Neutral company, but we believe it’s unlikely this will be adopted throughout the UK, as Telco’s would rather manipulate traffic and compromise performance than charge consumers more for the use of unrestricted access.
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