SA Perspectives: Keep the Net Neutral; August 2006; Scientific American Magazine; by Staff Editor; 1 Page(s)
If the online universe has had an unofficial slogan to date, it might have been the caption to that famous cartoon by Peter Steiner: "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." Not only do digital communications allow anonymity, but the underlying TCP/IP protocols that govern the flow of data are supremely egalitarian. Everybody's packets of information are treated equally by the routers. Thanks to that level playing field, entrepreneurs working out of their garages have been able to compete toe to toe with Fortune 500 companies in new businesses.
But with the rising popularity of streaming video and miscellaneous other services labeled "Web 2.0," some telecommunications companies are arguing that this model of "net neutrality" must change. Online video quality is relatively intolerant of even small transmission delays. AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and other companies that own the backbone lines for the Internet would like to prioritize data streams to make the traffic flow more rationally. If they have their way, the Internet's next slogan might borrow from George Orwell's Animal Farm: "All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others."