Net Neutrality and a Green Paper

Information World Review covered Network Neutrality a fair bit in 2006. It was a time when congress was thinking of reworking the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement (COPE) Act 2006. Over a million Americans wrote to Congress demanding that net neutrality be enshrined into the new laws. That was the last thing that major telco and cable companies wanted. They hankered after a two-speed internet: fast for them and slow for everyone else.

What happened? Nothing. No-one won except, of course, the status quo was maintained. Oh, and as far as the FTC was concerned, the market could sort itself out.

A couple of days ago senators Ed Markey (Democrat) and Chip Pickering (Republican) reignited the debate by introducing their Internet Freedom Preservation Act 2008. According to Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, this will “ensure that open, free and accessible Internet we have known for years will continue to be open to innovation, free from the control of telephone and cable companies and accessible to everyone.”

Brace yourself for a bumpy ride as the various special interest groups restart their lobbying activities.

Thus far Congress has not prostrated itself before the communications giants. What would happen, I wonder, if these proposals were put in front of the UK government? We might get a clue soon as the DCMS unveils its green paper on internet piracy. It wants ISPs to monitor traffic and take action against anyone downloading copyright material.

Hmmm. To do that successfully, wouldn’t they happen to need exactly the same packet sniffing capabilities that could act as the basis for a multi-tiered internet? As I say, it must be a coincidence. What isn’t a coincidence is that the drivers for this initiative are large media and entertainment corporations.

Isn’t it interesting that the US bill is for the people and will be attacked by the corporations with vested interests. But in the UK it is exactly the other way round. Quite regardless of this fundamental distinction, it will be interesting to watch the progress of the two proposals through their respective administrations

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