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Obama moves to bolster free flow of internet traffic | ABC The World Today (Listen here)
A common issue that is being raised in relationship with the Internet service in the USA is “Net Neutrality”. This is where there is the desire for any one who provides content to the Internet to gain access to the Internet’s bandwidth on an equal footing to each other.
It is in contrast to the likes of AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner Communications who want to sell a faster pathway and guaranteed access to their subscribers’ bandwidth to companies who are willing to pay for it.
I have also seen the issue of Net Neutrality in a similar context to real service-provider competition in most of the USA. This is because one company, typically an incumbent telephony provider or cable-TV company provides Internet service to a neighbourhood via a particular technology. An example of this is Comcast providing cable TV and Internet via coaxial cable, along with AT&T providing landline telephony and DSL Internet service via telephone lines and, AT&T even providing cell phone (mobile phone) and mobile data via the airwaves in that same neighbourhood.
The situation that comes about in most US markets is that these companies establish cartels in order to control the service that people benefit from. Here, this has led to poor customer service and Internet-access packages that represent poor value-for-money, including the arrival of bandwidth-throttling for some cable-Internet services. This situation was leading towards an environment reminiscent of the telephony service in the US before the Carterfone decision and the enforced breakup of AT&T (Ma Bell) in the early 1980s.
Here, when you don’t have Net Neutrality and you have the status quo associated with uncompetitive Internet service, the companies can charge Internet content providers an arm and a leg to gain access to that neighbourhood.
This issue was going to take a long time to be sorted because the US politicians in both the Congress and the state governments were effectively being paid by “Big Business”. But Barack Obama, the US President, had taken action to have the FCC provide the level playing field for Internet service.
Here, he outlined a plan where there would be no blocking, no throttling, increased transparency and no paid prioritisation of Internet traffic. Here, he wanted to see the FCC place all Internet traffic on the same footing as telephone traffic by classifying it under Title II of the 1934 Telecommunications Act which guarantees the reliability of telephone traffic, in a similar equivalence to having the broadband Internet treated as a “utility”.
One issue that would be of concern is that outgoing FCC commissioners would be heading to top positions in the US’s broadcasting and telecommunications firms especially if they did what these companies wanted. This is although the President of the United States Of America, as head-of-state and head-of-government is technically the FCC’s Commander-In-Chief and has that level of oversight.
At least a US President has had the guts to stand up for Net Neutrality, especially with a pro-consumer angle rather than pandering to “Big Money”.