Friday, February 29, 2008

The Pros and Cons of Net Neutrality (and yes, there are cons)

What is "Net Neutrality?"

In a nutshell, "Network Neutrality," or "Net Neutrality" for short, is an idea centered around preventing ISPs (or Internet Service Providers) from deciding which websites can be accessed by the user. Check out more information on it here.

What are the "Pros?"

First off, the "Pros" have been discussed time and time again, so I will try to keep this portion short. For a more detailed description of reasons to support Net neutrality, check out the Save the Internet foundation.

In a nutshell, the main concern of Advocates of Net Neutrality is that big companies might one day force users to use one web service over another, effectively online equality and free speech.

Example: One day, users of MSN's internet service will only be able to search with MSN Search instead of Google, while users of Comcast can only use Yahoo and not MSN. Users might have to pay more money for what they get now for free. Neutrality would pretty much guarantee that this scenario could never happen.

What could possibly be the "Cons?"

This is where the issue gets interesting. There are a couple main points of views advocating the end of Net Neutrality.

The first view is that charging different rates for different sites can be compared to purchasing cable television, and this makes sense to a lot of the internet providers who also provide cable and phone services. Pay more to get more, right?

The second view is that Net Neutrality isn't necessary in America because of the Free Market. Micro-Economics 101 teaches us that competition will lower the price of any good until it meets demand. Basically, if the mainstream Internet providers offer surcharges for the "good" websites, then some small third party company will offer everything for the same price to steal the customers back.

So, after hearing from both sides of the argument, where do you stand?