By Tyler Smith

Much has been said on the topic of net neutrality. Many of the articles I’ve read range widely between political poles. Depending on who the author is, it seems either the internet as we know it is doomed or we’re on the cusp of the next great renaissance in communications infrastructure and business models. 

Fundamentally speaking, net neutrality is a principle that has mostly governed the “rules of engagement” for data transmitted across the internet among all internet service providers. It states that all data should be treated the same without regard to specific criteria like website or content type. The principle is supported by many major technology companies including Microsoft, Amazon, eBay, and others, as well as the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. Internet service providers, broadband and telecommunications companies are the primary opponents of net neutrality, and have argued that any regulations created to preserve the principle unfairly restrict markets, services, and infrastructure investments that could be further developed, tiered, and monetized beyond their current forms. 

At the end of the day, my concern is that the future of the internet may look and work very differently from what we’ve all come to know and expect. Without the principle of net neutrality at the core of internet service providers’ approach to network design and management, businesses and individuals are likely to pay much more for bundles of service types. Think about a “HD Streaming Video” bundle priced and paid for separately from a “Web” and “Business Services (e.g. Email)” bundle.   Over the years the same companies that have now become the largest internet service providers (Comcast, AT&T) have shown us how they bundle desirable content with less desirable content to increase pricing (see any cable package).   Pay close attention to this ongoing debate. Once the rhetoric dies down, we’ll see real changes to how we consume and pay for internet services, and not all of those changes are likely to be for the better.

If you'd like to learn more about this issue, we suggest checking out this article from The Verge, or this one from NPR. If you have additional questions or concerns, let us know!

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