People/companies can develop so much great stuff on the Internet because of one major feature of the ‘Net, called the end to end principle. All this means is that the Internet connects two ends together. It is nothing more than a pipe that sends information back and forth. It is the machines on the end that have all the brains (computers, routers, etc). The network itself is brainless. This is great, it means innovators can send whatever they want through the pipes, and a long as your computer can accept it, it works.
If you have Skype on your computer, you and I can have a free voice conversation or even video conference. If you have a web browser like Firefox, you can connect to a website like the one you are looking at now. There is nothing between you and me that can block our our communication – again, the network knows nothing more than passing information.
Some savvy legislators are trying to pass laws that protect this end to end principle. However, there is one major group who is objecting. Can you guess who that might be? Well, the Internet Service Providers of course. They are arguing that they should be able to control your bandwith. They want to decide what data going through the pipes is important and what is not. So, when a company like Vonage lets you make unlimited phone calls on the cheap using the Internet, Verizon might decide to make Vonage’s traffic slow way down, to a point where it is unusable. Why? Because it competes with their phone lines and their voice over IP offerings.
We as educators, as technologists or just as Internet users cannot allow this to happen. Please consider joining MoveOn.org’s campaign to protect Internet Neutrality (as it has been dubbed). Spread the word, and let people know that the power of the Internet is worth protecting. We cannot allow corporations to decide for us how the Internet will be used. If you don’t want to join MoveOn, please contact your representative directly.
If you want to learn more about what could happen to the world if this is not protected, read the amazing Lawrence Lessig