Net neutrality, at its essence, is about deciding how much a telecommunications carrier can control content (i.e., Internet traffic) on the network. Should the carriers be allowed to block or slow content to the end user?

Internet providers want unfettered access to content for their users because they want as much potential data as possible to get to their target audience: their customers using the Internet: often, to help generate ad revenue. Users, even if they don’t know it, want unfettered access to content because they don’t like the idea of somebody deciding what they can and can’t see or how quickly they get the data.

Carriers, on the other hand, want the right to manage content because it helps them in several important areas. First, Internet traffic traverses over wildly different communication bandwidth mechanisms ranging from (yes it still exists) dial-up, to broadband cable, satellite, WIFI, and phone systems such as 3G and 4G. Carriers don’t want to use up valuable wireless bandwidth with, in their minds, unnecessary data.

Second, carriers are more in favor of a tiered service model to generate revenue. For example, if you want content being delivered at the fastest possible rate you would pay a “tier 1” price. If you can’t afford that or instant availability isn’t critical for your needs, you would pay a “tier 2” or “tier 3” price.

Third, the fact is, regardless of your feelings about carriers managing content or not, it’s getting harder and harder to provide the bandwidth that people want or need for today’s applications and the need for more bandwidth is only growing. This isn’t about censorship or control, per se, but about being efficient with how to use the telecommunications infrastructure both now and in the future as the demand for more data increases.

The bottom line is, there are a lot of interested parties in this debate and those that argue on both sides of the issue: e.g., those claiming net neutrality is a must to ensure the integrity of the data you’re looking at and yet others claiming certain amounts of controlling content (data discrimination) is not only not a problem but desirable to get network “trash” out of circulation. The result is likely to be a series of negotiations, compromises, and proposals that span geographical, political, financial, and other powerful boundaries.

Portions of this text was referenced in the following article: