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  • Writer's pictureDean Anthony Gratton

Net Neutrality: The Tainted Agenda

I’m aware that I promised to revisit the Internet of Things (IoT) this month, but I felt I couldn’t resist a follow-up feature on last month’s post, The internet: should we keep freedom of expression alive and well? I discussed the open wealth of information freely available across the internet, which often educates compared with the abundance of macabre, illicit, sexual and ‘miscellaneous’ content; likewise, access to copyrighted material was largely available despite Internet Service Providers (ISPs) attempting to inhibit access to websites that allowed users to source torrents and so on.

The internet as a utility

We all take the internet for granted and it has become a necessity whether we’re at home, work or on the move. I discussed how the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) Chairman, Tom Wheeler, wanted to regard the internet as a public utility, just like gas, water and electricity. You see, these utility providers are legislated in ways that govern their day-to-day business, ethics and practices; likewise, Wheeler wanted to extend the same legislation and governance to ISPs across the US.

Since last month’s post, the FCC has ruled in favour to approve stronger rules surrounding net neutrality and, in turn, how it governs broadband internet in the US – yes, the internet in the US is now, in essence, regarded as a public utility. Circa a 400-page document released by the FCC details the new rules and, apparently, a number of American ISPs are geared up to challenge or overturn the FCC’s new proposal. In fact, Barack Obama is an advocate for net neutrality, since the US President has argued that tougher regulations should protect the internet – arguing that users should have equal access to services and information.

Who involved the European Commission?

In Europe and the UK, the European Commission (EC) has taken a different stance on net neutrality. It seems the mussels, fries and mayo loving chaps in Brussels have leant towards a multi-tiered approach to the internet, which can only be deemed as a ‘stab in the back’ for net neutrality campaigners. Our alleged counterparts in Brussels want to take a more hands-on approach to ‘managing’ services and information delivered across the internet. They want to bully – no, sorry, I mean manage, European, and most probably British ISPs, who will need to reflect on looking at data more favourably when traffic is considered of higher importance.

As such, the EC will have to define what is acceptable when it adopts control, prioritisation and ‘snooping’ – to be honest, I’m not sure who is worse: the Americans or the European Commission? The EC is nowadays a contentious body and, especially with this year’s election en-route: a body that seems to mandate our everyday lives across Europe and the UK. Who involved the EC?

Did the FCC get it right?

Nonetheless, the EC wants to adopt a sense of ‘effective’ management where traffic, for IPTV, video conferencing and other priority-like traffic takes precedence. What’s more, it seems such management might extend to restricting unsolicited communication such as ‘spam,’ but then who deems it spam? Surely, you would have to peek at someone else’s email to slate it spam? Consequently, the EC’s unsympathetic stance on net neutrality may prove to nark a few people and organisations across Europe and the UK.

Largely, Wheeler’s net neutrality proposition has proven to be popular with net neutralists across the US, despite ISPs wanting to challenge the ruling. The shift in paid for traffic prioritisation to an open and free platform is surely a move in the right direction. Perhaps, it will encourage ISPs to ensure that their respective infrastructures are indeed capable of supporting internet speeds that will satisfy any data-hungry user, who can flock to their online providers such as Netflix, Hulu and or Amazon Prime and reassuringly receive the content that their paid for monthly subscription deserves, or at least was advertised as having!

I have to admit, I’m confident that Wheeler has got it right – let’s take our lead from the US and adopt the same philosophy across the internet here in Europe and the UK. It should remain an open, unfiltered, uncensored medium that allows us to reach for anything at any time unhindered.

Until next time…

I know I indicated in last month’s post that I wanted to tackle the IoT and I even held out my hand for others to connect and offer their IoT story: alas, nothing! I wonder, just wonder, if this ‘radio silence’ is reflective of the truth behind IoT and an honest sense of where we really are?

So, next month, I’ll be looking at small cells – well, in particular, I’ll be looking at something that has been coined by ip.access in Cambridge, as ‘presenceCells’. I plan to chat with Nick Johnson, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Gavin Ray, Senior Vice President (SVP), Products and Marketing, both at ip.access because, I know, the truth is out there.

So, this is where a broader, Fedora wearing, Mulder-like, Dr G signs off.


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a technology influencer, analyst & futurist 

I dispel the rumours, gossip and hype surrounding new technology

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