July 31, 2008

Network Neutrality – Write an FCC Commissioner

Network neutrality is one of the core concepts that make up the internet as we know it. The basic idea is that each packet or piece of data being transmitted over a network receives equal priority. No matter where the data comes from – be it a large corporation or individual website – and no matter what type of data – image, text, movie or voice – it’s all treated equal when traveling through the pipes that make up the internet. A level playing field throughout the internet allows my web site to load just as fast as IBM’s website. It’s what has allowed innovation to come from every corner of the world in the form of startups such as Google or Facebook. Without network neutrality large companies would gain a stranglehold on the internet – stifling new ideas and controlling everyone’s access to both view and publish information.

In the last couple of years telecom companies in both the United States and Canada have been lobbying to remove network neutrality from the internet in the hopes of generating more profit by charging for priority. Some companies, such as Comcast in the US and Bell in Canada, have already started to “delay” or “throttle” peer to peer traffic – which includes Skype and other bit torrent applications. The FCC has been reviewing this policy and will be voting this Friday on weather or not to sanction Comcast for these techniques. I encourage you to write a letter to the FCC commissions urging them to apply sanctions to Comcast. It’s imperative that we express our desire to keep Network Neutrality and the innovation and freedom of information that comes with it.

Below is the letter I emailed to the commissioners. Please feel free to use any or all of it when sending you’re own note.  You can find the FCC contact info here.


Dear FCC Commissioner,
I am writing you today to express my support to applications of sanctions and penalties for Comcast regarding their P2P “delaying” or “throttling” techniques. This type of network manipulations violates the idea of Network Neutrality that was established in the FCC’s 2005 Internet Policy Statement.

As I am sure you are aware Network Neutrality is essential to economic growth and free market ideas which the internet is based on.  Without network neutrality the internet is crippled. The core ideal of the internet is that each “packet” or piece of data is treated equally. If companies such as Comcast are allowed to give preference to certain packets while penalizing others the building blocks that have created the internet will begin to crumble.  The beauty of the internet is that the packets that come from a personal website, a corporate giant, or a peer to peer application are all treated equal.  If we start “delaying” P2P traffic or giving preference to any packet we will risk losing future internet innovation.  As we look towards the future of the internet network neutrality is essential to creating the next great website or application. Without it we risk losing the next Skype, Google, or Amazon.

Again I urge you to vote to apply sanctions and penalties to Comcast.

*UPDATE: On August 1st, 2008 the FCC ruled that Comcast violated Internet access policy and ordered the company to stop cutting off transfers of large data files among customers who use a special type of “file-sharing” software.

While this is a great victory for internet users and innovation it is also a tenuous one. The vote was 3-2 and lengthy dissents we’re issued by two commissioners. Let’s all make sure we monitor this issue and keep the pressure on our elected officials to uphold network neutrality. It’s just another reason to vote for Barack Obama [Obama’s position here & here].