Net-neutrality plan is dividing companies

In an emerging battle over the future of the web, companies are taking sides, reports the New York Times: Facebook said it would not support a proposal by Google and Verizon to regulate internet access, while an AT&T executive called the plan a “reasonable framework.” Most media companies have stayed mute on the subject, but in an interview this week, the media mogul Barry Diller called the proposal a sham. And outside of technology circles, most people have not yet figured out what is at stake. The debate revolves around net neutrality, which in the broadest sense holds that internet users should have equal access to all types of information online, and that companies offering internet service should not be able to give priority to some sources or types of content. In a policy statement on Aug. 9, Google and Verizon proposed that regulators enforce those principles on wired connections but not on the wireless internet. They also excluded something they called “additional, differentiated online services.” In other words, on mobile phones or on special access lanes, carriers like Verizon and AT&T could charge companies a toll for faster access to customers or, some analysts worry, block certain services from reaching customers altogether. Opponents of the proposal say that the internet, suddenly, would not be so open anymore. Some experts were puzzled as to what these services might be and why such an exception might be necessary. “Broadband that’s not the internet? I don’t know what they’re talking about,” said David A. Patterson, a professor of computer science at UC Berkeley. “They seem to have an idea of something other than the public internet as a way to ship information, but by nature, to have value it has to go to a lot of places, and right now, that’s the packet-switched internet.”

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