If you’re a savvy technologist, you’ve heard a lot about the debate over "net neutrality." If you’re not, then you should get up to speed on the issue because it could change the face of the web as you know it.
Bill Moyers recently put together an excellent program looking at the Faustian bargain that Congress might soon be making. In exchange for giving the telephone companies an incentive to build a fast fiber network in the US — something that many other countries already have, and something that the telcos promised to build years ago, but didn’t, despite accepting tax breaks — our national representatives may be primed to let the telcos control the future web and operate it as a "toll road." Under the current regime, every web site is treated neutrally, meaning
that web sites can distribute content at equal speeds and costs to content providers. If things change,
the telcos will create a "fast lane" and a "slow lane" for distributing content, and they can use their discretion, based on whatever standards they choose, to charge content providers different rates for using the different lanes. This will have a whole host of consequences for the future development of the internet, changing how companies compete on the web, how the pace of innovation progresses (or not), how you access content, and whether you can access content freely and equally. In short, it will determine whether your culture stays open or not.
There is a lot to this issue, and Moyers on America does a very good job teasing apart the issue in this 90 minute exposé that you can find on iTunes (or see the rss feed). The program’s web site also has a lot of good supporting information and is worth a look.
For more information, you should also see what the ACLU is saying about the issue.