Net neutrality

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 19 January 2015


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"...Network neutrality, a term coined by Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu in 2003 is the idea that an internet service provider (ISP) should treat all the data that travels through its network equally, regardless of the source, destination, or content of that data. In practice, this means that the data packets that make up streaming video, images from a digital archive, massively multiplayer online games, and class material in a course management system are all delivered from server to user indiscriminately, with minor modifications for network optimization...." — ACRL Keeping up with net neutrality
"...some public libraries are in under-served communities where patrons may not have personal access to the internet, so the use of the public libraries' resources is critical for them. Without net neutrality, public libraries may not be able to cost-effectively provide such Internet service. For the scholarly and academic communities, scholarly resources could be resigned to the slow lane of the net, if content providers and libraries don't have the resources to pay for the "fast lane." As resources increasingly go multimedia, requiring greater bandwidth, will libraries and content platform providers be saddled with taking on added costs to ensure reliable access? Net neutrality begins with the basic idea that the Internet is a fair and democratic platform for all. Organizations such as the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, EDUCAUSE, and Internet2, among others, have spoken out about the critical need for retaining net neutrality in the library, higher education, and research communities.

Network neutrality refers to maintaining a neutral, non-competitive playing field for everyone on the web without discrimination or making users pay for levels of access (or, bandwidth). Net neutrality, as it is often shortened to, is central to the democratization of information access in the 21st century. The idea of net neutrality is to treat equally all access, content, services and platforms on the Internet. Further, net neutrality stands against two-tiered access to web content (or, to use a metaphor, no slow and fast lanes, or separate costs for levels of access). Advocates of net neutrality argue that networks should carry all kinds of information and support all applications equally, and must therefore not charge Internet users for access based on the amount of bandwidth they use.

A central principle among advocates of net neutrality is that the Internet should be viewed as a public utility, and is thus similar to electricity, telephone, television and radio services in society. The Internet's open architecture is an essential part of the innovation of markets, economic growth, social discourse and the flow of ideas. As an important resource and platform for information dissemination, the Internet should be protected against censorship and discrimination (including discriminating based on (in)ability to pay for access). For many users, open access to information is a basic human right. In other words, net neutrality is a critical component of democracy, a free and open civil society and lifelong learning.

In 2011 the CRTC (Canadian Radio, Television, Telecommunications Commission) ruled that usage-based billing will be required. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that "...we're very concerned about CRTC's decision on usage-based billing and its impact on consumers. I've asked for a review of the decision". Some Internet watchers have said that this CRTC ruling adversely affects net neutrality, and may discriminate against those who use media stored on files that are larger in size, such as audio and video. The ruling throttles the availability of access by small business owners as they would have to pay for each "level" of access. For more information, see OpenMedia website & its recent press releases, 2015.

More on "What is net neutrality"?

Net neutrality in Canada 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png

"....Net neutrality in Canada is a hotly debated issue. In Canada, Internet service providers (ISPs) generally provide Internet service in a neutral manner, some notable exceptions being Bell Canada's, Eastlink's, Shaw, and Rogers Hi-Speed Internet's throttling of certain protocols and Telus' censorship of a specific website critical of the company.." (Wikipedia. "Net neutrality in Canada". January 2015.)
"...Canada’s Internet service providers (ISPs) are trying to deviate from the idea of leaving the Internet as a neutral playing field for those who upload and access content, which raises the question of how we, as users, want the Internet to work for us. Canadians must choose how the choose to understand the Internet: as a common conduit in which all information is treated equally, or as a place where preferential treatment is given to certain types of information and applications by the companies that control access to the Internet..." (SaveOutNet website, 2014)
"...Under the heading of “net neutrality” lies a whole range of questions affecting consumers and service providers. Fundamental issues of technology, economics, competition, access and freedom of speech are all involved . . . it is one of the polarizing issues of the day. It will have to be addressed and debated by all of us. (CRTC, 2008)

The laws that govern Canadian telecommunications prohibit “unjust discrimination” and interference with content by telecommunications carriers. However, they do not enforce net neutrality or prevent ISPs from offering tiered services to content providers. Should they do so, it would turn the internet into a two-tiered network on which corporate content is given priority over all other content. In the end, those with deep pockets will get the “fast lane”, while everyone else will get slower lanes.

Another problem is ISP “traffic-shaping”: a practice in which providers slow down certain types of traffic (such as peer-to-peer file sharing) to make space for other traffic on congested networks. This is seen by many as “unjust discrimination” under the Telecommunications Act and a violation of network neutrality, but providers continue to defend the practice.

The Canadian Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia University and author of 'The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires' coined the term Net Neutrality. (Wu asks excellent questions such as "...whether the Internet should be made neutral -- and if so, how?...")

Net neutrality in libraries

Net neutrality affects libraries, archives and museums especially where there are computers provided for the public. Public libraries in under-served communities are often where patrons go to get access to the Internet thus the use of the libraries' resources is critical. Without net neutrality, public libraries may not be able to provide access to Internet service. For the scholarly and academic communities, scholarly resources could be reassigned to a slower lane on the 'net, especially where libraries don't have resources to pay for the "faster lanes". As resources increasingly go multimedia, requiring greater bandwidth, libraries and content platform providers may be saddled with taking on added costs. Net neutrality upholds the idea that the Internet is a fair and democratic platform for all, and thus monetizing fast and slow lanes will disturb that equity of access.

Net neutrality sites in Canada 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png


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