This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.
"Information wants to be
free," the saying goes. But the debate over net neutrality could define
how free the exchange of information is going to be in the future.
neutrality is the idea that everything on the Internet should be treated
equally. That sounds simple. But the issue is a complex mix of technical,
business, political and legal questions.
In the United States, communication law is enforced by the
Federal Communications Commission. Since two thousand five, the F.C.C. has used
four policy principles to guide its enforcement in cases related to the
policy statement says consumers must be able to get the lawful content,
applications and services of their choice. Users must also be able to connect
their choice of devices that are legal and do not harm the network. Another
principle supports competition.
This week, in a speech, F.C.C. Chairman
Julius Genachowski proposed two more. One would say Internet providers could
not discriminate against content or applications. The other would require they explain
how they manage their networks.
F.C.C. chairman also wants to extend all six principles to wireless carriers
now that their phones access the Internet. And he wants to make the principles
into rules. Next month he will seek to begin the process, which starts with collecting
The new proposals have roots
in disputes involving two companies. In two thousand seven, Verizon refused to
make it easier for an abortion rights group to send text messages to its
supporters. Verizon said it did not accept programs on issues like abortion or
war, but it quickly changed its decision.
And last year, a divided F.C.C. ruled against Comcast for
interfering with traffic to a lawful music and video sharing site. At first, Comcast
denied it, but then defended its actions as "reasonable network management."
Critics said Comcast was trying to block competition with its cable video
Genachowski says a "free and open Internet" must be safeguarded. But providers
say they sometimes have to block sites to prevent abuse. And a big wireless
carrier, AT&T, calls extending the net neutrality policy "a risky
experiment" with American investment in high-speed Internet.
There is also debate about the desire of some Internet
providers to offer special treatment to sites willing to pay for it. That goes
against the custom of treating all sites neutrally.
that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. I'm Jim Tedder.