Network neutrality has once again hit the news as FCC chairman Julius Genachowski offered a sneak peek at the Commission’s draft net neutrality proposal earlier this week. Though this debate appears to be about as boring as watching snails cross a field, the outcome will have far reaching effects on your online safety.
What is net neutrality?
In simple terms, the philosophy behind network neutrality – which is also referred to as the ‘open internet’ – is that Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) and governments should not be able to block or restrict consumer access to content, web sites, platforms, or competitors.
There are many other aspects to the net neutrality debate – including whether the FCC even has the authority to regulate ISP’s, the economics of internet transmissions, alternative proposals in Congress, conflicting political views, but these areas will be left for others to debate.
Why safety needs to trump other considerations
On the surface, the net neutrality/open internet proposal sounds like a great benefit to consumers, ensuring that they can access any content as they see fit. But not if it comes at the cost of safety. Any version of an open internet must first and foremost be a safe internet or consumers, businesses, and the country will lose.
Chairman Genachowski agreed with the concept of some network management when he suggesting ISPs can do “reasonable network management” to deal with traffic that is “harmful to the network or unwanted by users,” such as viruses and or graphic sexual content or to “address the effects of congestion.”
But this fails to go far enough. ISPs’ position at the edge of the internet ecosystem means they must be the front line of our safety, security and privacy defenses against the full range of online threats. They need to be able to fully manage their own networks and respond as needed to constantly evolving threats to:
- Block or restrict content coming from a server that has been found to be malicious
- Filter transmissions that contain viruses
- Block spam and scams from overwhelming consumers (up to 90% of all email is spam)
- Provide protection against spyware, viruses, and other malware by restricting the flow of these through their networks
- Filter and block illegal content
- Prioritize some types of data over others (for example, you want emergency 911 calls to take precedence over movie downloads so that your call isn’t dropped or your stuck waiting until bandwidth frees up)
- Isolate and block content sent by botnets – possibly even block botnets entirely
- Shut down data streams attempting to overwhelm websites in denial of service attacks
- Respond to cyber warfare attacks
- Continue to innovate on safety for the protection of consumers and the internet ecosystem
- And so on…
We not only want ISPs to take these protective measures on our behalf, we should be pushing for greater safety measures to be taken on our behalf. As long as an ‘open’ internet is synonymous with an ‘unmanaged’ internet, consumers will be left in a Wild West environment where their safety is constantly in jeopardy.
We urge all parties in this debate to place the safety of consumers first.