Net Neutrality Bill

Congressman Ed Markey, chairman of the House subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet, this week introduced a bill titled The Internet Freedom Preservation Act that seeks to maintain the open architecture of the Internet. Net Neutrality is a buzzword that means different things according to who wields it. My use is consistent with Markey’s. Net Neutrality means keeping some portion of the architecture of the Internet–or some portion of the architecture of each layer of the Internet–open and free from discriminatory treatment of access and data. In other words, maintain that original architecture that allows anyone to get online, establish an Internet presence, establish connections with other networks, and publish and receive information without interference. To others, such as the US Telecom Association, net neutrality means government regulation of Internet architecture. They want the ability to treat some data–such as movies streamed from their servers to their paying customers–preferentially, which in turn means giving lower priority to other data. They argue that Internet architecture has always been market-driven and government should stay out of its design. One irony is that some early-Internet pioneers, for whom government regulation of anything network related was anathema, support the goals of Markey’s bill. Another is that the original design of the Internet was research-driven, not market-driven, certainly not in any commercial sense of “market.” The Internet was created by the U.S. government to enable collaboration among military and academic researchers. Unrestricted data flow is in its DNA. It is disingenuous to argue that the market should continue to govern its design, as if the market was always the invisible hand shaping its development. It wasn’t.

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