21 de septiembre de 2010

What does it mean to be neutral on the web?

In recent months, debates and discussions about net neutrality have spread through the media like wildfire. Without a doubt, this is one of the hottest topics we have seen in a long time, due both to the wide-scale implications is has for telecoms regulation and society as a whole.

We are all aware that the Internet is constantly evolving and along with it, consumer habits are changing. Whether we are watching IPTV, playing an online game or banking over the internet we are demanding more than ever before of our creaking networks.

The question is, what happens when we reach saturation point and who is responsible for ensuring that the ever-expanding Internet, whilst neutral and open, is technically viable? The main participants in this debate are:

1. The internet service providers and operators that provide the infrastructure behind the Internet
2. The internet companies who drive most of the traffic to the web such as Twitter, Facebook or Youtube
3. The governments that are striving to ensure that the entire population has internet access (Finland has become the first country in which broadband is considered a “legal right” for all its citizens)
4. And the consumers who are increasingly using the Internet as an integral part of their daily lives

The debate is currently underway and is causing a great deal of controversy. On the one hand, consumers are demanding that the Internet remain free and open, allowing everyone to have access to the same content for the same price, independent of affluence. On the other hand, telecoms companies are searching for the best model to allow the Internet to evolve in a way that is technically sustainable – and this could involve charging more for premium services.

Both arguments are perfectly reasonable, but the debate begs the question: aren’t both sides really fighting for the same thing – sustainable growth? In the end, the internet needs to be both open and sustainable, so the real question should surely be: how can we ensure sustainable growth of the net for the future and build together an open, free and neutral internet?

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