In an unusual display of democracy in action, thousands of people registered their opinion on the "net neutrality" issue during the three-month public comment period that ended last week, reports Wired News. Usually, complicated issues of this type are commented on only by lobbyists and special interest groups, but by the end of the official comment period, over 11,000 people had weighed in.
Most of the comments were in favor of maintaining an open internet, but just how to keep it open was up for debate. On one side are the progressive groups which argue that the government needs to regulate broadband providers in order to keep them from discriminating against rival services and voice over IP services. The other side argues that competition is the best way to keep ISPs affordable and accessible.
"Please act to ensure internet neutrality; we citizens need the FCC to protect the public airwaves so that we have access equal to that of the fabulously wealthy and the corporate world," wrote Carolyn Jackson, a New York City-based nonfiction editor, in support of new rules to protect her access to the internet.
Thus far, the FCC has refrained from regulating how cable and DSL providers handle internet packets. The big phone companies want to be able to deliver premium service to companies that pay for extra-fast delivery.
One of the commenters was a little company called Google, which called for more enforceable rules.
"It is entirely reasonable for a broadband provider to utilize legitimate application and content-neutral practices -- such as halting harmful denial of service (DOS) attacks or prioritizing all packets of a certain application type, such as streaming video," Google wrote. "If, on the other hand, network management is used to promulgate discriminatory practices -- such as blocking, degrading or prioritizing certain applications or content, based on an intention to impair the offerings of competitors -- such practices should be prohibited as unreasonable."
A coalition of broadand companies called Hands Off the Internet argued that regulators should leave them alone to build out new networks and arrangements.
"Broadband capacity ... must be greatly increased to handle the massive increase in data traffic (due in large part to video applications)," the coalition wrote. "Tiered services and new business arrangements by broadband access providers will not result in content discrimination or service degradation, but will spread the cost of the new build-out so that consumers will not be saddled with the entire cost."