Net Neutral, Please

On all sides of the political spectrum, technology advocates were deeply relieved by the outcome of the November elections. Only a few months earlier, Senator Ted (“The internet is a series of tubes”) Stevens was a hair’s breadth away from dramatically rewriting the nation’s telecommunication laws and gutting the internet’s vital tradition of network neutrality.

Network neutrality is a core internet principle that preserves innovation, competition, and free speech. It ensures that all packets of information are treated equally on the net, whether they are sent by a wealthy stockbroker in Manhattan or by a small businessperson in Kerrville.

Stevens fought hard during the post-election lame-duck period, but he lost the battle when Congress adjourned in December.  

Jason Pontin, editor-in-chief of MIT’s Technology Review confidently predicts that network neutrality will be enshrined in law during the opening months of 2007. Further grounds for optimism can be found in Representative Edward Markey’s (D-MA) decision to head up a strategically important telecommunications panel in order to keep an eye on the issue.

Fortunes can change overnight, and it is too early to celebrate. But, for the moment, network neutrality seems more likely than ever. Fingers crossed.

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