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Sustaining the network neutrality of the Internet

David Isenberg has written an excellent and important essay, Creating Sustainable Network Neutrality. I haven't seen that a lot of people are blogging about this or otherwise linking to it, and so I wanted to get the word out and encourage you to read it and link to it.

For those unfamiliar with the term, "network neutrality" is an idea you actually need to know something about if you find value in the Internet. Basically, it's the principle, built into the Internet, that allows people to independently invent and create new things on the net—e.g., in some fundamental sense, our website and blog here are able to exist because of network neutrality.

Network neutrality would be a given and you wouldn't need to know more about it, if the telephone and cable companies in the US weren't committed to ending network neutrality. These companies, whose wires we use to connect to the Internet, want to change the Internet (at least the parts of it that travel across these wires) into another controlled, centralized system, like cable TV, or your phone service.

In recent years, the telephone and cable companies have started asserting that they have the right to void network neutrality. In 2005–2006, the grassroots "network neutrality" movement coalesced and challenged this assertion. As David Isenberg describes in his essay:

[T]he Network Neutrality movement. . . raised the prohibition of, "any service that privileges, degrades or prioritizes any packet . . . based on its source, ownership or destination," from an unknown issue in 2005 to a cause célèbre in 2006. It achieved this victory despite a press blackout so complete that Project Censored named Network Neutrality its #1 most under-reported story of 2006! The Network Neutrality movement is leading a struggle for the Internet's essence; the Internet would not be the everyday necessity it is today, or hold promise for tomorrow, if it were not neutral.

What's especially important about David Isenberg's essay is its perspective on what's next. He gives a picture of how the telephone and cable companies' business compel them to sustain an ongoing and long-term campaign against network neutrality. And, he argues convincingly that we (people who find value in the neutral Internet) need to not only look at the battles that are being fought in the context of laws and regulations, but look to a long-term goal of essentially changing or replacing the telephone and cable monopoly business.

As he concludes the essay:

We must resolve to persist until today's dinosaurs evolve into birds. That is, we must face the fact that if the Internet is to survive as a neutral network, sooner or later we will need Internet access without carriers as we know them today. So we need to decide whether we keep the neutral Internet or we keep today's carriers, because we won't be able to have both.

(Sorry to "give away the ending," but I wanted to make sure you saw that, in case you didn't get to read the whole essay.)

Anyway, I highly recommend that you read the essay. And, if you blog, twitter, IM, bookmark or otherwise web, consider linking to it and letting others know about it.

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