Net neutrality: A new issue for the Old World

Converged communicators who are in COM3332 (New Communication Technology in Contemporary Society), MMC3200 (Law and Ethics in Communication) or almost anything else have probably heard by now about the debates about net neutrality. Defined at its most basic level, net neutrality is the idea that Internet service providers (such as cable companies) should permit users to access all content equally, without favoring any one site over another. This has become a major issue of communications policy in the United States, but American legislators aren’t the only ones grappling with net neutrality and its implications. The same battle is playing out in the European Union.

As reported by Mark Scott for the New York Times, European lawmakers are set for a major vote that could determine the course of net neutrality policy for Europe. The technical issues are complicated – no, converged communicators don’t need to know everything about those – but the basic core of the dispute is the same. Should ISPs be able to slow down some forms of content that uses large amounts of resources, or charge customers more for access to those resources? In Europe, the debate has even wider implications, because of the differences between European and American policy in the regulation of wireless data networks. It’s worth watching to see how this will unfold in the coming months.

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