November 7, 2006

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is not an issue I've posted on before, but nevertheless it's one I think is vitally important to the future of the internet.

From Net Neutrality in Canada:

The debate about net neutrality can get complex. However, it boils down to the role of Internet Service Providers [ISPs] in the operation of the internet. In a neutral network, ISPs provide non-discriminatory access to all types of traffic. In this model, ISPs compete on the factors of speed (bandwidth) and throughput (bandwidth * time). This is, for the most part, how internet service has been delivered in the past and is a model that works well for the internet as a whole, as ISPs are not involved in controlling the content that you access on the internet.

New technologies are coming to the market which enable ISPs to monitor and "shape" traffic based on its content; that is, ISPs are now able to determine what content you are accessing on the internet and modify your service accordingly. At the most ethical of times, this ability to control traffic, commonly called Quality of Service [QoS], has been applied to protocols such as the Domain Name Service [DNS] allowing DNS lookups to be resolved at a higher priority than HTTP traffic. The management of this type of QoS is typically a matter of internal network operations at an ISP and has no associated cost to the consumer.

Clearly, libraries and librarians should prefer a neutral net, one that gives fair and equal access to all content, regardless of it's origin. The network itself should not prefer one source to another or one application to another. Packets are packets that should be passed along impartially. Clearly, from a scientific point of view, data and information should be fairly and openly available to all. Can you imagine a network that would block information on evolution or stem cell research? Neither can I, so we should make sure we keep this issue a the front of our minds, perhaps even including the basic concepts in some of our instruction.

There's a petition to sign at the bottom of the site for those who are interested. The Wikipedia entry I cite above has a quite comprehensive coverage of the issue, focusing mostly on the USA.

Thanks to Kyenta Martins of library Monkey for bringing this issue to the top of my mind.


curiouscat said...

Net Neutrality: This is serious form Tim Berners Lee - "the father of the web" He also just announced the interesting Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI)

John Dupuis said...

Thanks, curiouscat, I knew about the WSRI but had not seen the "This is serious" article.