Net Neutrality Bill vital for Internet model of publish once, publish everywhere

Following the reintroduction to the US senate this week of the Snowe-Dorgan legislation advocating "Net Neutrality", webtesters SciVisum contend the bill is vital protect the Internet model of publish once, publish everywhere.

"If ISPs or network operators are allowed to filter out traffic from certain publishers unless the end users or publishers pay extra, it kills the wonderful Internet model - publish once, publish everywhere." said Deri Jones, CEO, SciVisum.

Fundamentally, it would cripple the Internet economy, in particular Web 2.0 services.

I can imagine the disaster that would occur for many of my clients - if they had to negotiate traffic deals with network operators in each country where they operate - and a deal with each network operator within that country!

And as for the Googles and YouTubes of tomorrow - how do they have a chance to start-up and gain market share, if their route to market is blocked with extra costs and substantial extra admin? It would stifle new online content providers.

Impact to website performance

And worse, at work each day we help clients to improve the online User experience of their customers, with performance measurement of their money-making or customer-serving User Journeys.

With the nightmare of an added layer of ISP traffic filtering, there will be a whole new set of problems, where our clients legitimate traffic is wrongly blocked by ISPs, due to human error, technical problems on the new equipment that will be needed to do the filtering. Another set of hurdles that add cost for zero gain for our clients. In a world of tighter online competition and slimmer margins, this is just new wasted overhead.

Threatens neutral carrier argument

And ISPs may be shooting themselves in the foot by objecting. Currently, ISPs like the Royal mail are not responsible for the content of traffic that flows their systems - neutral carrier - if I email or send a letter to you with bomb making instructions, the Royal Mail and our ISPs are not responsible.

But if ISP's can filter traffic, based on who is paying for the traffic costs, then they have the power to block or allow -and the neutral carrier argument may be lost.

Would the ISPs be opening themselves up to a bunch of legal costs, whenever their paying clients are shipping sexually explicit material that crosses the legal lines; or material that breaches european distance-selling rules; or content that may be considered to be breaching incitement to religious hatred?

I wonder if the ISPs have considered that, or are they only thinking so far of making money out of the pockets of the giant TV companies, and not about the potential problems of smaller, less respectable clients, landing them in trouble.

Objections are a throw-back to the private network world Objections to the Net Neutrality legislation are a throw-back to the private network world.

The legislation reminds me of the embryonic state of the online world 15 years ago, when I headed up what was the first ISP in the UK.

At that time, there had been online communities connected over modems, like CompuServe and in the UK CIX. They were private gardens, where only paying members could access and share the content. And there was lots of useful content. Microsoft's embryonic MSN at that time was an attempt to build their own version.

The problem was, these were private rather than public - in comparison to the Internet that was kicking off. On the Internet, if you published some content, *anybody* with an internet connection could see it. Whereas content you put up on CompuServe, was only visible to their customers.

So once the Internet community became a large enough community, it was better to publish on the Internet than to cover some or all of the private network communities.

And as we know, the Internet community did grow very quickly: Universities gave users free access early on, the free market meant that a rash of new ISPs started up, and provided internet access for £10/month and etc. Companies hooked up so that staff had access from their office.

Net Neutrality is important. If we lose it, we risk going back 15 years to the days when online communities were tiny compared to today. That is not long term in the interest of anyone, and not even the network providers.