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Why the net is up in arms

Why the net is up in arms

Google and Verizon have created shockwaves across the Internet with plans for what some have called the two-tier web. Here’s what’s happening, and why it matters to you.

August 16, 2010 4:38 by

It’s anti-competitive – the big players can shut out the smaller ones, and service providers could potentially slow down sites that compete with any of their own offerings. So the moves have sparked uproar among web users, and some of the web’s biggest names have come out against the plan. Facebook, Ebay, Skype and Amazon are all in the “no” camp when it comes to Google and Verizon’s proposals, according to the Financial Times.

In a statement, Ebay said: “Two-tier networks with corporate toll lanes would stifle ground-up innovation and benefit dominant businesses at the expense of smaller competitors and entrepreneurs.”

And Christopher Libertelli, Skype’s senior director of government and regulatory affairs, added: “We believe openness principles should apply to wireless as well as fixed-line internet access.”

Google and Verizon say they left out wireless because the technology is still nascent, so it is still possibly the rules to protect neutrality could be adopted. But there is another school of thought that says they might not be appropriate because the amount of wireless frequency available for use is ultimately finite. Imagine all the people on the internet in a country were streaming on wireless all at once – the system couldn’t cope. By prioritizing certain traffic you ensure that vital tools get priority and remain open.

This is in part what Google and Verizon mean when they say they also want to exempt “differentiated services” (the second loophole). “Examples might include health care monitoring, the smart grid, advanced educational services, or new [non-commercial] entertainment and gaming options,” says Google’s blog.

The debate is complicated and a long way from resolution, but could ultimately affect all web traffic. For that reason it is worth following. And as the New York Times editorial said, every voice is valuable in this debate.

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