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Internet Freedom vs. Net Neutrality

FaithTools Blog - by - November 4, 2009 - 14:51 America/New_York - Be first to Comment!

On my drive into work this morning I was listening to This Week In Tech #219 and their discussion of Net Neutrality verses The Internet Freedom Act. So I thought I would do a little research. 

I love Leo Laporte and his rotating gang of pundits- it is the TWiT model that we based the FaithTool podcast. Their tech discussions have kept my attention since the very beginning. I don’t always agree with their political opinions, so when they were discussing the issue of an unregulated Internet I realized that I was woefully uninformed. I have heard the propaganda from both sides of the issue, but I was unaware of any facts.

So I decided to go on a fact finding mission.

A Quick History

  • The Internet was built to transport data- originally this was just just basic text.
  • The data has turned into much more than text including audio, video, gaming, VOIP and web based applications.
  • These new services use ever increasing amounts of bandwidth.

The Problem

Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) claim this explosion of bandwidth usage is increasing their expenses and is degrading their network stability. Several ISP’s (including Comcast, Cox and Verizon) have introduced bandwidth shaping plans. This means an ISP can identify and prioritize digital content as it flows through their network. Bandwidth hogs such as video or VOIP can, in effect, be slowed down or denied altogether without the consent of the customer.
These bandwidth shaping policies have been condemned by the FCC since their adoption of Net Neutrality policies (PDF) in 2005. The FCC has slapped the wrist of Comcast for bandwidth shaping in an ongoing battle. According to the FCC’s website, “In section 706(a) of the [amended Communications Act of 1934], Congress charges the Commission with “encourag[ing] the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability” – broadband – “to all Americans.”

Congress Gets Involved

On July 31, 2009, Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced H.R.3458 – Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009. A bill “to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to establish a national broadband policy, safeguard consumer rights, spur investment and innovation, and for related purposes.” This bill would make into law the FCC’s Net Neutrality policies that have been in place since 2005.
On October 22, 2009, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) introduced S.1836 – Internet Freedom Act of 2009. A bill to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from further regulating the Internet.

How Does This Affect Churches

As with any political debate, there is no cut and dry answer here. If S.1836 passes, then there is the potential for churches to run into road blocks as they attempt to deliver their online video and audio messages. If H.R.3458 and Net Neutrality becomes law, then I would expect ISP’s to eventually change their pricing structures for those people and organizations that consume more bandwidth. 
Personally, I am not sure where I stand. I typically prefer less government regulation. But as a podcaster for this website as well as for our church, I certainly do not want my audience to ever have trouble receiving our content.

UPDATE (10-Nov-2009):

I have decided- Save the Internet.

So let the conversation begin. What do you think? Use this Google Wave (if you have a Wave account) or the comments below.

{googlewave srv=http://wave.google.com/wave/|id=googlewave.com!w+gJ3n0eL4A|width=100%|height=400px } 

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