The New Intermediaries

Net neutrality

Two thousand fourteen was the year that “net neutrality” sprang into the public consciousness, and not a moment too soon. At its heart, net neutrality is the idea that ISPs should deliver the bits we ask for as quickly as they can get them. ISPs, on the other hand, are petitioning for the right to give favorable treatment to some kinds of Internet data. For example, if YouTube bribes your ISP for “fast lane” access to its customers, you’ll have great, speedy access to YouTube—and all its competition will be jittery and sucky.

ISPs say that anyone who objects to this arrangement wants something for nothing. Why should YouTube’s competitors have the same access to AT&T’s subscribers if YouTube is willing to pay extra for “premium” access?

The reality is that ISPs are trying to get paid three times for the same service through network discrimination. You pay for your home broadband connection. The website you’re visiting is also paying for its connection. The ISP then wants to treat you as its hostage and ransom you to that website.

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