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BURRISS: Is net neutrality worth it?

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Let’s go way, way back to the beginnings of the Internet.

Internet traffic, the messages we send and the websites we establish, travel via wires or satellites established and maintained by service providers. Because service providers own the wires and satellites, there is some thought that these companies can control the content sent over “their” systems.  

The idea is that big users will pay more for faster and better access. Ordinary users will be relegated to a lower status. In addition, there is the idea that because the service providers own the networks, should they not be allowed to determine what content is sent over “their” systems?

Well, in 2010 the Federal Communications Commission issued an open Internet order establishing “net neutrality,” saying that providers are common carriers, much like the phone company. They have to carry any and all traffic at generally the same rate.  

However, now the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down the order.

So here is the conflict: Service providers have expended great sums of money on Internet infrastructure, so should they not be allowed to set whatever rates they want, with more favorable rates going to the largest users? And because they own the infrastructure, should they not be allowed to determine what content is, or is not, allowed on “their” system?

On the other hand, the Internet has become almost as necessary as the telephone, where rates are controlled by various government entities. As a common carrier, shouldn’t service providers be required to carry whatever, with some exceptions for criminal activity, users want to send?

The libertarian side of me says that because the service providers own the infrastructure, they should be allowed to do with it what they want and let market forces prevail. But, the First Amendment and freedom of speech side of me wants net neutrality and open access, with fair and equitable access for anyone.

So, generally speaking I am in favor of any regulations that will enhance the free flow of information.

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