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Net Neutrality in a Nutshell

What is net neutrality and why is it making news lately? Tech Talker explains.

By
Eric Escobar,
January 22, 2014
Episode #109

Page 1 of 2

What is net neutrality?

The term net neutrality or internet neutrality has come up in the news recently and it has been causing a lot of controversy and confusion. In this week’s episode I’m going to set the record straight!

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If you’ve never heard of net neutrality before, fear not, it’s a really simple concept. At its most basic, it's the idea that internet service providers (such as Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, etc.) should treat all data the same as it travels across the internet.

This means that your internet speed and the availability of websites should be the same no matter what the content is, or who owns it. This means that loading a website of The Wall Street Journal should be delivered to your computer the exact same way as the web site of The New York Times. When I first heard of this I thought “Well of course they should, why wouldn’t they?” -- and well that’s where it gets sticky.

Up until not so long ago Internet Service Providers (ISPs) had to treat each website and service exactly the same in terms of how data was transferred over their networks.

What if you owned a business and you could pay Comcast to make your website load 10 times faster than your competitor's? 

So why wouldn’t companies want internet equality? Sadly the answer is money. What if you owned a business and you could pay Comcast to make your website load 10 times faster than your competitor's? This could mean that your competitor could receive less internet traffic, and therefore less revenue.

Let’s take this a step further and say that you could pay Comcast to blacklist a website altogether. This could mean that your competitor may not even be visible to any potential customers.

This could bring about two types of scenarios. This first is that companies begin a bidding war to outspend their competitors in order to make their content load faster, or have their content be more widely available.

This could also mean that you might need several ISPs, such as one to view any “.com” websites and another to view any “.net” websites. Or maybe one for social media and another for video content. All of a sudden the internet becomes fractured, split into different portions of the internet.

ISPs could even block specific services such as Netflix or Hulu and demand that either you pay more money to watch their content, or make the companies pay a ransom of sorts for users to be able to see their content.

So why is this such a big deal now?

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