By Andree Toonk | December 14, 2007
This week I read about a incident involving the Canadian Internet provider called Rogers. They are experimenting with something new called “ISNS” which stands for Internet Subscriber Notification System. What they do is intercept your web traffic and modify the requested web pages by injecting their own code. For the innocent user it may look like the web page has been changed or even hacked. The information which was injected in this particular case is information about the account usage for that particular month. This message takes up 1/3rd of the actual screen and the only way you can get rid of it is by clicking on the actual message. For more information about this particular incident can be found here. Although some users might find this useful, we need to understand the implications. What are providers allowed to inject and what not., should they just not inject anything or should there be some kind of regulation? This brings us to the very interesting subject of net neutrality…
While the definition of net neutrality is open to some debate, Net Neutrality could be described as the principle that consumers should be in control of what content, services and applications they use on the public Internet and that all Internet content should be treated equally by providers without any kind of discrimination. It’s a simple concept that has wide-ranging implications on how the Internet operates.
Why would providers want to do this? Like rogers, to deliver “extra” service, or could it be that providers have an economic interest to discriminate traffic. What if a broadband provider like for example Shaw (a Canadian provider) or Chello Internet (a dutch provider) would own their own Itunes service, and of course this service works much better for their customers then the Apple Itunes service. As a result customer might prefer to use this service.
There is clearly an incentive for those who have the economic interests to discriminate. Companies that have a major interest in the infrastructure of the internet, typical the telecom companies, haven’t liked sitting back and watching big content providers like Google and Yahoo make billions of dollars. They want a piece of the pie, and they want to be able to favour their own content or the content of the corporations that would pay them big money.”
That’s something big content providers like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are afraid of, arguing it will destroy the free and open nature of the internet and also create a tiered, dollar-driven net that favors the wealthiest corporations over everyone else.
Vice president of Google, Vint Cerf gave this example “Telephone companies cannot tell consumers who they can call; network operators should not dictate what people can do online,” Just imagine, electrical companies allow you only to use a certain brands of TV. Nobody would accept that! They all have equal access to the electricity when plugged in. And that’s what costumers expect! Why would this be different with Internet access?
Another example happened a few weeks ago here in Canada as well. The provider SP Bell Sympatico dramatically reduced the speed of the Internet connection of their customers as soon as they started to use peer-to-peer application such as Bit Torent. The same is id done by Comsat a major broadband provider in the US. The fact this is happening is one thing, but the fact that they won’t tell you, or in some cases even deny this, is of course even worse.
Let us protect the neutrality of the net!