“Net neutrality” refers to the idea that Internet service providers should treat all sources of data equally. There has been debate as to whether ISPs should be permitted to treat their own content preferentially, or allow certain content providers to pay for faster transmission, creating two tiers of web service. There is also a question as to whether these companies can block or create hurdles to reach content representing controversial points of view.
The New York Times reports, “The proposed rules of the online road would prevent fixed-line broadband providers like Comcast and Qwest from blocking access to sites and applications. The rules, however, would allow wireless companies more latitude in putting limits on access to services and applications.”
A two-tiered web is one in which powerful companies have the ability to play favorites. Major corporations with deep pockets could purchase higher speed service to transmit their own content, while consumers would lack those resources. Some say a two-tiered Internet would bring consumer connections to a crawl. While there probably will be some abuses, I’m sure that if this happens, these abuses will come to light relatively quickly.
What has many up in arms has been the broadband carriers’ attempt to block websites or applications. In some cases those sites may compete with the carrier, or they may be a drain on resources, such as with torrent downloading sites. It doesn’t look like carriers will be allowed to block anything, but this battle is just beginning.