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Author Topic: Net Neutrality - Are they about to kill the internet as we know it?  (Read 1896 times)
Gareth Southwell
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« on: 07/05/09 @ 17:12 »

I have just come across this, and was so struck by the potentially huge impact that I had to share it.

At the moment, the internet is free - not in financial terms (most of us pay, in one way or another, for personal access), but in terms of what we can view. Obviously, there are laws to do with what can be put up (as there should be), and eventually we may one day close more of the loopholes that allow criminals to use the internet for their own ends. However, given these restrictions, the internet is a remarkably liberal forum for self-expression and freedom of information - but I don't really need to sell the internet to you, do I?  Grin

However, there is legislation in the pipeline that has the potential to change all this. In Europe, it is called the Telecoms Package, and it is currently being voted on in the European Parliament (for more information, go HERE), but similar moves are also being considered in the US (and, no doubt, other places). What it basically means is that internet providers will be able to restrict access to the websites and internet services that you access. This will probably take the form of asking you to subscribe to different 'channels' or 'packages' of sets of sites, and asking you to pay extra for anything outside of this. If this were to happen, then traffic to sites like this would die off almost overnight. Who would come here if you had to pay? A select few, possibly.

However, as much as I like to look after myself, there is a bigger agenda here. What about other websites with minority audiences, or websites with controversial opinions? Might ISPs come to exert a form of censorship over what gets included in what package? At the moment, we have what is called 'net neutrality', which means that ISPs do not generally restrict what sites or services you access (they are 'neutral' in that respect).

My gut reaction to this is that such legislation would never actually work. The internet has already fostered too many self-willed individuals who don't want to go down the same track as everyone else, and they would obviously kick up a fuss (as I am doing here, in my own modest way). However, it seems to me that it would also create a huge dip in quality. Whilst the ability of anyone to put up their own site has resulted in a lot of dross, the opposite is true (Philosophy Online is, after all, a private project... AHEM!). Furthermore, many big websites include links to small ones, and 'channelling' content would mean that those links would then be 'dead'.

However, whether unworkable or not, I think that such restriction and censorship remains a distinct possibility (at least, it is real enough to concern Tim Berners Lee, the internet's founding father -
see HERE). Think of it: as things stand, it is difficult for the major businesses to fully monopolise the internet, or guarantee a certain audience (and thus attract sponsors). If I run a cafe, and I want to buy bagels, all I have to do is type 'bagels' into a search engine, and as long as the search engine lists all available sites, I may decide to buy from a small stockist round the corner (instead of a big one who is based miles away). Thus, I can make my own decision: perhaps I want organic bagels made with wholemeal flour, and the big suppliers don't stock these - but the little one does. However, what if the search engine just starts listing the major suppliers? What will happen to the small supplier? And my desire for specialist bagels?

Don't take my bagels away!

If you want to do something about this, first read the links above, and then contact your local MEP (Member of the European Parliament) if you live in the UK - I'm not sure what to do if you live anywhere else - if anyone knows, then contact me and I'll post info. To find out who your MEP is, go to this fantastic website, and follow the steps: Write to Them. I've just sent an email - I'll let you know how I get on...

If anybody has any thoughts on this, or any extra info, please comment or contact me.
« Last Edit: 10/10/09 @ 16:19 by Gareth Southwell » Logged

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LostInAShaftOfSunlight
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« Reply #1 on: 27/07/09 @ 14:47 »

What has happened with this lovely bit of legislation?
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Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #2 on: 30/07/09 @ 08:30 »

Well, firstly, I never heard back from the four local MEPs that I emailed (ah, quelle surprise...). So much for participative democracy!

As for the legislation itself, it seems that the vote went in favour of protecting net neutrality (Yay!), and so - whilst things are ongoing (and the various business interests are regrouping and contesting the legislation), there would seem to be fundamental strides forward in protecting the 'free information' side of internet access. (See here)

In the US, things are also looking hopeful. A commission has been set up to discuss this, and the head of the commission is pro-net neutrality. (here) Also, however, more importantly, so it seems is President Obama! (go here).

So, things are looking up! When I get a moment, I'll blog on what's happening and update everyone (I just need to spend some time checking that I've understood what's happened!). However, I don't think this is something that we should take our eye off.
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CygnusX1
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« Reply #3 on: 06/09/09 @ 23:59 »


I cannot find anything regarding restrictions of internet content, yet below are some links to telecoms restrictions regarding VoIP, and Skype in particular, whom I believe have been openly debating and promoting their free VoIP services to extend to their mobile network - hence the debate here it seems is to limit competition damage to other mobile operators and networks?

EU battles industry plans to restrict Skype on mobile phones
The European Commission is threatening to brandish the new roaming regulation or antitrust rules in order to block plans by major EU telecoms operators to restrict the use of Internet calling services like Skype via their mobile networks... more here > http://www.i-policy.org/2009/07/eu-battles-industry-plans-to-restrict-skype-on-mobile-phones-.html

EU Fights Operators' Plan to Restrict VoIP on Mobile Phones
The European Commission is waging a battle against mobile phone operators that want to restrict the use of Internet calling services through their mobile networks. In it latest move, the commission reportedly is throwing its weight against new roaming regulation or antitrust rules to block that attempt...
more here > http://voip-phone-systems.tmcnet.com/topics/voip-phone-systems/articles/60175-eu-fights-operators-plan-restrict-voip-mobile-phones.htm


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Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #4 on: 08/09/09 @ 06:19 »

Thanks for this. I think it is only to be expected that commercial companies will attempt to exploit the internet for profit. We all have to put up with adverts and other annoying things, but the more serious possible limitations affect the free exchange of information. If we allow that to be significantly restricted, then I think it will be the worse for us. I accept that there need to be laws and policing to a certain extent, but this is not about that: it is about money. I think Wikipedia is the template of what the internet can be. Anyone can add information, dispute it, change it, but at the end of the day the final product is one which has been created by people who want to be involved - not necessarily academics, government officials or 'experts' - which is the way it should be. If we allow our access to the internet to be dictated by companies who want to make money, then this freedom and grass roots level involvement with knowledge will come under threat.

The links you provide, Cygnus, reflect one particular point of conflict. It is natural that phone companies want to protect themselves against free competition, but - to be honest - it's not as if they have always been primarily concerned with the interests of the consumer. How much does it cost to ring a friend in another country? How much do mobile phone calls cost? I'm glad to see that the EU is actually on our side for once. If I had my way, then we would all have free access to media (phone, internet, television), just as we have free access to libraries. No one should put a price on knowledge.

Discuss! Grin
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CygnusX1
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« Reply #5 on: 26/09/09 @ 16:31 »

Some more good(?) news regarding internet legislation..

Keeping the Internet open

The Federal Communications Commission's chief has a plan to ensure that people have unfettered access to Internet content and services. More here > http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-10361419-92.html?tag=nl.e496

Still worth keeping a keen eye on this subject as it concerns us one and all !
The internet was designed and promoted in the name of freedom, and for the free education and expression of ideals of the masses - let us make sure we all use our powers collectively to keep it that way.

 Cool
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You are neither earth, water, fire, air or even ether.
For liberation know yourself as consisting of consciousness,
the witness of these.
[The Song of Ashtavakra (Ashtavakra Samhita) Chapter 1.3]
Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #6 on: 26/09/09 @ 22:59 »

Great news! Thanks for this Cygnus.

What is the saying? Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom? Or is it, Eternal cynicism regarding the motives of profit-hungry multinationals? Roll Eyes
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