The fight over how you use the Internet just went to a whole new level

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HARTFORD -- People expect the service they're paying for, and President Obama just gave advocates of net neutrality a major win by formally announcing his support for it.

Net neutrality is the belief that all data that travels across the Internet should move from creator to consumer freely and equally, without any degradation or slow-downs--also known in tech lingo as throttling--in service.

In February 2014, Netflix had no choice but to strike a deal with Comcast Corp. because its streaming video service was suffering from major slow-downs and customers complained of consistent buffering video and poor picture quality.

"This really demonstrates the power that the Internet service provider has to control what its customers can access and who can access its customers," said Dr. Gabriel Michael of the Yale Law School Information Society Project.

Advocates of net neutrality argue this pay-to-play type of business practice is unfair and could stifle the next big dot-com boom before it has a chance to blossom. They say the next phase of the Internet can't afford the price tag for prioritized data streams.

Consequently the president has called on the Federal Communications Commission to re-classify Internet service providers, and even wireless companies that provide smartphones, into utilities, which would allow for much stricter regulation.

Some of the biggest names in tech are in favor of net neutrality, including Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook.

In a video statement from the White House, Obama said, "[Telecom] companies can't decide which online store you can shop at or which streaming services you can use, and they can't let any company pay for any priority over its competitors."

Many of the country's major telecom companies, including Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, are staunch opponents of net neutrality. Opponents of the plan argue a re-classification is unnecessary and would stifle growth and network maintenance.

Netflix has since been forced to make similar paid arrangements with other US Internet service providers.

Experts do believe, however, that the costs of royalties and access fees will eventually carry down to consumers.

"If it's a portion of the Internet, or some parts of the Internet, but others at a slower service, or no service at all, is that really Internet access?" said Dr. Michael. "Is that what customers are expecting?"

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1 Comment

  • Robert Heron

    “Experts do believe, however, that the costs of royalties and access fees will eventually carry down to consumers.”
    No shit, Sherlock.