Apr 072010

The FCC’s about to rule on Net Neutrality, and they’re collecting public feedback until Friday. If you feel as I do, sign the Save the Internet petition.

Why should you care? Well, would you mind if someone switched your search engine from Google to Yahoo? Do you care whether movies streamed to your neighborhood will arrive slower than emails streamed into rich neighborhoods? Do you want the Internet’s innovators to be a few companies in the middle with control over the routers, or everyday folks with a laptop on the end nodes?

I’m hot and bothered about this because the principle of net neutrality has guided the Internet since its infancy, and there is no question in my mind that it is the single biggest reason for the phenomenal growth of creative, scientific, and economic activity online.

To allow Internet Service Providers to negotiate faster access for companies like Barnes & Nobles or Yahoo would be like allowing the Federal Highway Administration to charge BMW drivers smaller tolls in return for kickbacks. Thankfully, our country’s roads were built in a vehicle-neutral way, and as a result they have been flexible enough to serve horse carriages, Model Ts, and Priuses. To charge higher rates for some forms of traffic and not others would be to stifle technological innovations of the future.

Unfortunately, net neutrality is still not a given. Take this news from the past couple days:

Another Internet service provider is caught getting in the way of its users, just four days before the Federal Communications Commission closes the window for public comments in its effort to stop such meddling.

Windstream Communications, a DSL provider with more than one million customers, has copped to hijacking user search queries made using Firefox’s popular browser — even when a user has set it to use another search engine….

Windstream had been intercepting toolbar search queries possibly using deep packet inspection technology. When a user enters a search query into the Firefox toolbar, Windstream inserts itself between the user and the provider of that application. The search query is then redirected to a Windstream-owned search engine, where the company can derive additional revenue from the captured traffic.


The Internet, like the highway, is a public good that should be provided equally to all, not preferentially to the rich and powerful. Net neutrality is the only way to safeguard its promise of innovation and prosperity for our future.