The public debate about net neutrality is at its heart a debate about whether we want to keep the Internet growing and expanding and contributing to our cultural growth as it has been, or whether we instead want to turn it into something as static and predictable as telephone service or TV.
(O)ne can imagine what riding in taxicabs might be like if taxicab operators had freedom to discriminate based on where a passenger was going or what he or she planned to do after getting there. Taxicab companies might be tempted under such a circumstances to cut special deals — to provide better rates and/or service to someone traveling to Radio City Music Hall rather than to the Museum of Modern Art simply because the former had a commercial partnership with the taxicab company.
And this shared idea about “neutral” carriers has been at the heart of how the telephone and mail systems have worked in this country for many, many years. It’s also central to how the Internet has been designed, to how it has functioned, and to how fast it has grown.
21 August 2006
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