CHALLENGES TO DOWNLOADING MULTIMEDIA AND CONFUSION OVER NET NEUTRALITY
Imagine now you can download latest movies, entertainments, multimedia games from the internet for FREE of charge. What will happen to cable TV such as Dstv? The neutral communications medium is essential to our society.
It is the basis of a fair competitive market economy. It is the basis of democracy, by which a community should decide what to do. It is the basis of science, by which humankind should decide what is true.
The carriers' plan from the beginning has been to convert the Net into a paid content delivery system--of some kind. Copyright extremists of the Hollywood school see the Net as a big "video content" business and carriers as ideally positioned to offer "piracy" protections at the backbone level. But long-term net neutrality is in question: The broadband Internet market is booming -- 50 percent of all U.S. homes are expected to have high-speed Internet access by 2008, according to the Yankee Group marketing consultancy -- and cable ISPs and telephone companies are lobbying to avoid as much regulation as possible.
Network neutrality is the principle that Internet users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the Internet. The Internet has operated according to this neutrality principle since its earliest days. Indeed, it is this neutrality that has allowed many companies, including Google, to launch, grow, and innovate. Fundamentally, net neutrality is about equal access to the Internet.
In our view, the broadband carriers should not be permitted to use their market power to discriminate against competing applications or content. Just as telephone companies are not permitted to tell consumers who they can call or what they can say, broadband carriers should not be allowed to use their market power to control activity online. Today, the neutrality of the Internet is at stake as the broadband carriers want Congress's permission to determine what content gets to you first and fastest. Put simply, this would fundamentally alter the openness of the Internet.
Decisions being made now will shape the future of the Internet for a generation. Before long, all media — TV, phone and the Web — will come to your home via the same broadband connection. The dispute over Net Neutrality is about who will control access to new and emerging technologies. Misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding the debate over Net neutrality has brought confusion between the telecom operators, internet service providers and users.
On the Internet, consumers are in ultimate control — deciding between content, applications and services available anywhere, no matter who owns the network. There is no middleman. But without Net Neutrality, the Internet will look more like cable TV. Network owners will decide which channels, content and applications are available; consumers will have to choose from their menu.
The Internet has always been driven by innovation. Web sites and services succeeded or failed on their own merit. Without Net Neutrality, decisions now made collectively by millions of users will be made in corporate boardrooms. The choice we face now is whether we can choose the content and services we want, or whether the broadband barons will choose for us.The neutrality issue pits large broadband providers such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon against consumer groups and large Internet-based companies such as Amazon.com, eBay, and Google. A neutrality law would create new regulations for the Internet, broadband providers say. They argue that they need to explore new business plans as a way to pay for next-generation broadband networks, and that they should be free to divide up their broadband pipes to offer new services such as television over IP.
One possible new business plan: Charging e-commerce companies fees to get preferential routing for traffic to their sites. Officials from AT&T and BellSouth have advocated such a plan in recent months. In November, AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre famously complained in a BusinessWeek interview that Google and VoIP provider Vonage were using "my pipes free.""I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it," Whitacre told the magazine. Broadband providers have repeatedly said they will not block or impair their customers' existing access to competing Web content or services. But Pac-West, an independent telecom provider based in Stockton, Calif., fears that lack of a net neutrality law could lead to large broadband providers blocking Internet traffic from smaller providers. That could mean the end of many smaller providers.
U.S. Congress is to reject net neutrality rules. In a May 17 letter to congressional leaders, 35 manufacturers — including Alcatel, Cisco, Corning, and Qualcomm, among others — said there is no evidence that broadband providers now block or impair competing content. The Internet does not need the burden of new regulations, the letter said, adding that passing a bill risks "hobbling the rapidly developing new technologies and business models of the Internet with rigid, potentially stultifying rules."On the other side, more than two dozen network equipment vendors have called on saying that if net neutrality becomes law, broadband providers will not be able to separate out new services such as video over IP. The danger is if they try to make the Internet into one dumb pipe, definitely there would be no room for innovation in the internet development. That will be the end of internet. Keeping the Internet free of regulation has helped to spur tremendous investment and competition in broadband networks and services. Left free to create new business opportunities and services, broadband providers (including cable operators, DSL, satellite and wireless operators) have invested billions of dollars to bring high-speed Internet access services to consumers across the nation. With bandwidth usage growing at a rapid pace, continued investment will be needed to keep broadband services robust.
If broadband providers are to continue to make these investments, and if consumers are going to be given the levels of services and innovative new products and features they desire, all at prices they can afford, broadband providers need to have continuing flexibility to innovate in the business models and pricing plans they employ. Likewise, websites and content providers also need the flexibility to experiment with business models, and to partner with broadband providers in doing so.
In my own views, writing Net Neutrality into law would preserve the freedoms we currently enjoy on the Internet. For all their talk about "deregulation," the cable and telephone giants do not want real competition. They want special rules written in their favor. Either we make rules that ensure an even playing field for everyone, or we have rules that hold the Internet captive to the whims of a few big companies. The Internet has thrived because revolutionary ideas like blogs, Wikipedia or Google could start on a shoestring and attract huge audiences. Without Net Neutrality, the pipeline owners will choose the winners and losers on the Web.
The cable and telephone companies already dominate 98 percent of the broadband access market. And when the network owners start abusing their control of the pipes, there will be nowhere else for consumers to turn.
The threat to the net neutrality is not just hypothetical, so far, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. But numerous examples show that without network neutrality requirements, Internet service providers will discriminate against content and competing services they do not like.
In 2004, North Carolina ISP Madison River blocked their DSL customers from using any rival Web-based phone service. In 2005, Canada's telephone giant Telus blocked customers from visiting a Web site sympathetic to the Telecommunications Workers Union during a labor dispute. Shaw, a big Canadian cable TV company, is charging an extra $10 a month to subscribers in order to "enhance" competing Internet telephone services.
In April, Time Warner's AOL blocked all emails that mentioned www.dearaol.com — an advocacy campaign opposing the company's pay-to-send e-mail scheme. This type of censorship will become the norm unless we act now. Given the chance, these gatekeepers will consistently put their own interests before the public good. We may conclude our today's discussion by summarizing that it is obvious that no Small business owners benefit from an Internet that allows them to compete directly — not one where they can not afford the price of entry. Net Neutrality ensures that innovators can start small and dream big about being the next eBay or Google without facing insurmountable hurdles. Without Net Neutrality, startups and entrepreneurs will be muscled out of the marketplace by big corporations that pay for a top spot on the Web. But Net Neutrality does not just matter to business owners. If World turns the Internet over to the telephone and cable giants, everyone who uses the Internet will be affected. Connecting to your office could take longer if you do not purchase your carrier's preferred applications. Sending family photos and videos could slow to a crawl. Web pages you always use for online banking, access to health care information, planning a trip, or communicating with friends and family could fall victim to pay-for-speed schemes.
Allowing broadband carriers to control what people see and do online would fundamentally undermine the principles that have made the Internet such a success...A number of justifications have been created to support carrier control over consumer choices online. Today it is only the U.S. Congress that is debating on the issue of net neutrality, how about other Governments? The question is do they have choice?