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Net neutrality – Or the equal distribution of web content to all

Net neutrality is a big, complex subject touching on computer networking, the law, ethics and even censorship (as argued by some). Even so, whilst net neutrality is  undeniably heavy going, here at Pressroom, as web content specialists we maintain a strong interest in it –because ultimately, the way nations handle this matter could have a bearing on how our content gets distributed to our readers.

Whilst definitions of net neutrality abound, Wikipedia arguably provides one of the most helpful: Net neutrality is:

“[…] the principle that all web traffic should be treated equally.”

In other words (whilst broadband speeds may inevitably vary), a user in Shetland and a user in Lands’ End should both have equal opportunity to access, say, the BBC News website.

This is where a recent ruling by the US federal appeals court in Columbia comes in. The court ruled that US ISP Verizon did not have to abide by net neutrality rules laid down by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) in 2005.

Potentially, this means that Verizon could bring in a tiered pricing structure, whereby it could, for instance, only provide Netflix streaming movies at full speeds to those willing to pay a premium. Alternatively, Netflix could be charged by Verizon for using its infrastructure – a charge that Netflix might have to pass on to its customers.

Ultimately, the spectre is raised of certain ISPs blocking certain websites from some or all customers (for commercial or other reasons) – thereby bringing the much-prized principle of net neutrality crumbling to the ground.

Whilst the above scenario remains speculative, for many advocates of freedom on the net it’s a real and present danger.

Certainly, those interested in the equable promotion of web content, especially on mega-sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, do need to keep a close eye on developments.

Steven Morris

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