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Twelve Billion Bargaining Chips: The Web Side of the Net Neutrality Debate

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1 Author(s)
Weitzner, D.J. ; Comput. Sci. & Artificial Intelligence Lab., MIT

Net neutrality - the issue of whether ISPs should be allowed to give (or, more likely, sell) higher-performance access to content or services from certain providers - has been a hot Internet public policy issue in the US. Some network owners (such as Bell South and SBC) indicate that they'd like to charge large content providers (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, eBay, Amazon, and so on) extra in order to reach potential customers. Web users have a unique set of interests at stake in this debate, but they also have unexploited bargaining chips - roughly 12 billion, to be exact (or however many Web pages exist at the moment). The real threats to the Web's vitality and its hundreds of millions of users have been largely overlooked in this debate, however, as the legislative debate has overemphasized the interests of larger content providers and network operators. As the author illustrates, today's Web users need a neutral, nondiscriminatory Internet as an open platform to support the Web's operation. The good news is that as it moves from a read-only medium, in which most users are merely information consumers, to a read-write medium in which users post pictures, write public blog entries, and link to each other's profiles, active users might have an opportunity to preserve the Internet's open, nondiscriminatory (neutral) operation on which they depend

Published in:

Internet Computing, IEEE  (Volume:11 ,  Issue: 1 )