Why A Neutral Internet Is Crucial

In the most high-profile case on net neutrality, last year the FCC ruled Comcast illegally placed limits on broadband customers using peer-to-peer services. Comcast is appealing the ruling, but this is exactly what open Internet advocates and the FCC want to prevent. Why ? Because it would adversely impact innovation and impede the potential an open and neutral internet can create.

To illustrate the importance of net neutrality consider this: if you had a choice between a large, established Internet company with deep pockets to pay for faster access; you'd be more likely to use their service over a small start-up that might have a more innovative services but lacked the money to pay for similar speeds. What the major players want is to eliminate competition and use their present advantages to snuff out future competitive threats. Remember when you had to buy your telephone from one supplier - AT&T ? Recall how AT&T fought the FCC over the deregulation of the telecommunicaiton industry ? Well we're here again, but the stakes are higher now.

In 2005, the FCC adopted four principles for net neutrality. These principles say that network operators cannot block users from accessing Internet content that is legal and they can't prevent consumers from attaching devices, like a TiVO or online gaming console, to the Internet. Basically the pipeline cannot govern content and companies with deep pockets cannot use their resources to block innovative competitors.

This week FCC head Genachowski added two new principles. Network providers can't discriminate against certain types of Internet traffic and they have to be transparent in how they manage their networks. Critical pieces to maintain the net as an open platform and despite fortunes being spent on Congressional lobbyist and contributions to candidates.

Even more profound was the decision to extend these rules to wireless networks. With mobile computing and smartphones emerging as one of the most profound innovations of our time, it's essential that these networks be kept open so that this market can continue to flourish and evolve.

The policy announcement was not a surprise given Obama's support for the cause during the campaign. If you believe in the great potential of technology and the Internet and you live in the U.S., contact your congressional representatives and let them know - we need a neutral net.