Do you understand the meaning of “net neutrality”?  Do you have an opinion of how government and business can work together to maintain free, open high speed access on the Internet despite more and more traffic?

Mike Heil, a partner with ThrottleNet, appeared on TNtv to discuss net neutrality and why it’s becoming a major issue.

Heil said net neutrality currently means different things to different people.  While many believe its principle is to allow the government and Internet Services Providers (ISPs) to treat all data equally without discriminating or charging differently by user, content, platform and application, some believe it means slowing down certain types of Internet traffic and/or forcing you to pay more for some type of prioritized high-speed delivery.

He indicated the real discussion is about video on demand and the potential money involved in the so-called “last mile”, the connection between your house and your ISP.

ISPs want to maximize their profits on that last mile. As they supply more and more bandwidth for  YouTube, Dropbox and Pandora, they are not getting extra revenue for these types of services.

They point to companies like YouTube who have found a way to make money by selling commercials attached to their videos. ISPs of course, do not share in this revenue even though it takes more bandwidth to supply the YouTube service. 

In the case of bit torrent, many are also losing revenue on pirated movies and music. There is a push by business to take this away as well.

Providers such as Charter, Verizon and others would hope to get programming services to pay more for faster speeds. They could create a premium subscription for services like Netflix and give you a fast lane for better access. 

This is motivated by money and the fact the Internet is a finite resource.

An example of this is NFL football which can now be seen in high definition on your mobile phone. If a large number of people all wanted to watch a game at the same time, in the same approximate location, it could monopolize all the bandwidth available on a cell tower. The only ones getting revenue for this are the people broadcasting the game through advertising and subscriptions, not the Internet providers.

Some want the Internet to be regulated like a utility. Debate lingers as to who would oversee this function whether it would be the FCC or the Internet providers themselves. If the Internet providers self-regulate the question is who would police them?

In addition to the growing use of the Internet for home entertainment there are greater demands for business and for government regulations. This includes the transmittal of medical records and the use of online banking.

Heil said the Internet was never really designed for any of this. It was originally designed as an experiment for the defense department and evolved for a way for universities to transmit data across the world. Now it is performing many functions it was never intended to fulfill in the first place.

Many believe the question of net neutrality and control of the Internet will eventually be sorted out over time by our free economic system. Others are firmly rooted in the belief some regulation is needed to ensure that everyone will continue to get their fair share of the Internet. 

What ‘s your opinion?

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