[Linux-aus] US puts internet democracy to a vote - from crikey.com website

Anthony Hornby ahornby at darlug.org
Mon Jun 26 12:32:03 UTC 2006

Apologies for cross-posting.
Thought this was interesting.
Interested in everyones comments.

US puts internet democracy to a vote - from crikey.com website
Margaret Simons writes:

This Tuesday, the United States Senate is expected to vote on the 
principle of network neutrality, or what some call the democracy of the 

Meanwhile the local head of Internet research company Hitwise, Sandra 
Hanchard, has written a piece 
(http://weblogs.hitwise.com/sandra-hanchard/) including figures on how 
Australians actually use the internet. Her research makes it clear that 
the US decision will have a profound impact on Australians. She also 
sheds light on why it is content providers on the internet who are 
advocating laws guaranteeing net neutrality, and telcos who oppose them.
Network neutrality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_neutrality) can 
mean different things to different people, but in the current debate it 
stands for the principle that telcos and ISPs should be prevented from 
creating a tiered internet, in which those who pay are given more 
efficient ways of reaching audiences. In other words, without network 
neutrality the internet becomes a toll road with a priority privileged 
lane for those who pay a higher fee.
Opponents of network neutrality argue that the ability to impose 
variable charges for different levels of service is necessary if telcos 
are to have the incentive to invest in the infrastructure necessary for 
the Internet to develop. They compare it to the Postal Service, where 
you pay for express service.
On the other side of the argument is a vast coalition that crosses 
political boundaries, but has in common a passionate interest in 
content, rather than the pipes that deliver content.
They would prefer to see the internet as being like a utility such as 
electricity. You pay for what you use, whether you plug in a toaster, or 
a television. It is none of the electricity company's business how you 
use their product.
As Hanchard explains, big companies like Google will be very vulnerable 
if network neutrality becomes a thing of the past. The giant content 
providers of the Internet rely on all the little players for their 
referral traffic, and their advertising revenue. If big players pay 
more, the web of connections that makes the Internet what it is will 
fundamentally alter.
If a telco is able to privilege its own content, or the content of its 
commercial partners, over the independent players then it is likely to 
distort the market, quite possibly stifling the development of new 
applications and content.
And Hanchard argues: "The large spread of visits across all websites and 
low concentration of overall clickstream traffic may be.considered a 
symptom of the rise and popularity of consumer generated media. 
Businesses are still exploring the marketing applications of this, and 
it could be a great shame if this was nipped in the bud by lack of 
legislation to protect net neutrality."
With the first internet television services just around the corner, the 
growth of podcasting and the wholesale shift of advertising dollars to 
online media, it is hard to imagine a more important issue for those 
concerned with media diversity in this country.


Regards Anthony.

Mr Anthony Hornby
Associate Director, Resources and Technology
Library and Information Access
Charles Darwin University (CRICOS 300K)
Phone: +61 8 8946 6011
Email: anthony.hornby at cdu.edu.au.no-spam
(remove the .no-spam)

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