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Internet Service Providers Plan to Subvert Net Neutrality. Don’t Let Them

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses the potential threat of "network slicing" by internet service providers (ISPs) to net neutrality principles, and the need for strong net neutrality protections to prevent the creation of "fast lanes" that would undermine competition and consumer choice online.

🙋 Q&A

[01] Fast Lanes and How They Could Harm Competition

1. What is the concept of "fast lanes" in the context of internet networks?

  • "Fast lanes" refer to the designation of part of the network with more bandwidth and/or lower latency to be used only for certain services, creating a tiered system where some applications or services are prioritized over others.
  • This is done through network slicing, where the physical network infrastructure is split into several software-defined networks optimized for different use cases, with the maximum capacity divided among these slices.
  • The article uses the analogy of a road system, where certain lanes are reserved for specific types of traffic, which can improve flow for those vehicles but degrade service for everyone else.

2. How could the implementation of "fast lanes" by ISPs harm competition and consumer choice?

  • ISPs choosing which applications or services get to be in the "fast lane" means they are picking winners and losers, which can harm both speech and competition online.
  • Consumers may be incentivized to use the faster services over newer or smaller competitors, even if the slower services are just as good or better.
  • This allows ISPs to favor their own services or those of business partners, undermining the principle of net neutrality where all internet traffic should be treated equally.

[02] Fast Lanes Are a Clear Violation of Net Neutrality

1. Why are "fast lanes" considered a violation of net neutrality principles?

  • Net neutrality is the principle that all legitimate internet traffic should be treated equally by ISPs, without discrimination between applications or types of traffic.
  • Designating "fast lanes" for certain services inherently means other traffic is slowed down in comparison, which is a form of throttling and discrimination.
  • ISPs choosing which services get prioritized access to the "fast lanes" means they are picking winners and losers, which harms both speech and competition online.

2. What are the key concerns about ISPs implementing "fast lanes" even with the proposed new net neutrality rules?

  • The article states that for the new net neutrality rules to be truly effective, they must not preempt states from enacting stronger protections, and must clearly prohibit the creation of "fast lanes" through positive discrimination or unpaid prioritization of specific applications or services.
  • Without these strong safeguards, the new rules may end up doing "far less for consumers than the old rules did" by allowing ISPs to circumvent net neutrality principles through the use of "network slicing" and "fast lanes".
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