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March 9, 2014

Net neutrality: new developments

At a recent meeting of the Fellows of the Institute for Ethics and Public Life at SUNY, I was gently chided by a member who pointed out that my last column discussing net neutrality missed an important part of the issue.

It was pointed out to me that little users (like you and me) were at the mercy of the Internet service providers (ISPs) in more ways than I had discussed.

For example, if an individual has a website, then, without net neutrality, they would be last in line to get their message out and worse, they could even get timed out and cut off during the process of a long, slow download of information.

But why should the little guy get the same consideration as the big boys? Because it was the aggregate of little guys who paid for the design and development of the Internet in the first place.

In the early 1990s, Sen. Al Gore wrote, “How can government ensure that the nascent Internet will permit everyone to be able to compete with everyone else for the opportunity to provide any service to all willing customers? Next, how can we ensure that this new marketplace reaches the entire nation? And then how can we ensure that it fulfills the enormous promise of education, economic growth and job creation?”

While it is certainly true that Gore did not invent the Internet and never claimed that he did (as many detractors like to claim), he most certainly was the driving force behind its funding and eventual creation. Our present Internet evolved from the ARPAnet (funded by the Department of Defense and available only to the DOD and its many contractors). Gore envisioned that it should be made available to everyone as it was ultimately funded by us, the taxpayers.

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