The lines are drawn on net neutrality as EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes sets out her plans to stop online throttling and line blocking. But in the US the issue is not so cut and dry. Jim Richardson discusses his concerns.
If you’ve been paying attention to what’s going on with the web at all for the past few years, you have probably witnessed some tension around the topic of Net Neutrality. It is among the most hotly debated subjects surrounding the future of the Internet. Proponents of net neutrality feel that data and content should be freely and equally distributed to all web users. Very recently, this discussion started to get heated in the EU.
A new European net neutrality plan will include provisions for a ban on network throttling and site blocking. According to ZDnet, this new EU net neutrality plan will prevent ISPs from throttling networks. For instance, the European Commission estimates that over 100 million Europeans face wrongful restrictions to their Internet services by ISPs who place blocks on content because the content in question competes with their services. The plan is expected to mandate net neutrality once it is passed.
Net Neutrality in the States
Net neutrality legislation in the US, however, is not so cut and dry. In fact, while there are some legal restrictions when it comes to equal content distribution online, it’s becoming increasing difficult to regulate some ISPs that engage in throttling and other restricting practices. Most recently, though, the net neutrality conversation has been brought to the forefront with the new CISPA bill that is being proposed in the senate.
CISPA, (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act), is positioned to allow private companies the ability to share customer or user information with the government in an effort to help fight cyber terrorism.
Net Neutrality Controversy in the US
Unlike Europe, the net neutrality waters in the US are a little murky. The line between homeland security, Internet safety, and Internet freedom is exceptionally blurry. Take the recent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on Spamhaus, for instance. Spamhaus is a non-profit organization that works to fight spam websites and content from all over the globe. No one would dispute the usefulness of such a group if it weren’t for their escalation procedure. In short, if a spam-identified service provider does not shut down their servers sending out spam content, then Spamhaus will add all of the service provider’s servers to its blocklist.
Most recently, Spamhaus carried out an escalation with a Swedish company called “Cyberbunker.” Since Cyberbunker was well known to have spam servers, Spamhaus put blocks on all of its servers, making a host of perfectly legitimate websites inaccessible. As a result, Cyberbunker is launching what some are calling the largest DDoS attack in the history of the Internet, notes www.InternetProviders.com.
The Future of Net Neutrality in the US & EU
While the US is still fighting through some of the grey areas in pro and/or anti-net neutrality legislation, the EU is drawing some clear distinctions as to what makes Internet access free and equal. The big idea is to ensure that private companies have zero or minimal power over how Internet access and content is distributed.