Op-Ed

Op-Ed
Verizon vs. Net Neutrality

Russ Pitts | 13 Jun 2006 11:22
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This, like most issues involving government, big business and "an idea" is probably one about which you've already heard a great deal, and perhaps made up your mind. In which case, carry on.

If you want to dig a little deeper, however and (to quote a guy with a very sexy voice) "see how deep the rabbit hole goes," come with me ...

In the Red Corner, representing an organization called Hands Off the Internet, is Tom Tauke, Executive Vice President for Public Affairs at Verizon. Tom's position is that legislating access to the internet space will be harmful to innovation, possibly preventing such advances as internet-based healthcare monitoring from coming to fruition.

In the Blue Corner, Moby, Craig and Representative Edward Markey (D) of Massachusetts, representing an organization poignantly called Save the Internet. Their position is that allowing the internet service provider to charge content providers on a "per-use" basis, essentially puts control of internet content into the hands of large communications corporations.

The bottom line: Verizon is investing huge amounts of capital to lay fiber-optic cable (half of their annual earnings, according to some estimates) in order to regain competitive stature against cable operators who can currently move more data, and thus provide more services. The Hands Off folks would like to allay some of these costs by creating separate tiers for streaming video, etc. and charging internet content providers a fee for access to those tiers. The Save the Internet folks want to preserve (in addition to your freedom) the right to use the internet however they wish while maintaining the relatively low cost overhead of net-based content delivery, regardless of who's providing the "last mile" data line.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted last week against Rep. Markey's amendment to the current telecommunications bill under debate in the House. The amendment, touted as the "Net neutrality Amendment" would have prohibited discrimination by telecommunications companies against any company providing content over the internet. The Senate will be debating similar legislation in the coming weeks.

Who should you trust? Nobody. Also, it's a done deal. The internet has, in the past ten years, evolved from the status of luxury to necessity. As such, the providers of the service are now in a position to start flexing their muscles. Few of us can recall a time when anyone could comfortably survive even a day without electricity. That time is soon at hand for the internet as well. Get ready to start ponying up the cash.

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