Net Neutrality and You

Friday, January 17, 2014


On Tuesday a DC circuit court of appeals dealt what many are calling a death blow to net neutrality, the principle that all content providers should be treated equally. To understand this ruling and its potential effects on the future of the internet, Brooke talks with Siva Vaidhyanathan, chair of media studies at the University of Virginia and author of The Googlization of Everything (and why we should worry).


Siva Vaidhyanthan

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [8]

Francisco from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

I think you might be interested in this take on the issue (from ABC Radio National, Australia):

Feb. 02 2014 12:58 PM
Francisco from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

I've been thinking about this and I think that I've come up of explaining why this decision is important to those who don't take an interest in these things:

Imagine, for example, if you phone company had interference on the line if you did not call their partner for booking flights? Or if you called a number that was part of a different network?

Feb. 01 2014 08:27 AM
Don from Bethesda, MD

Great piece but sad to hear that things seem to be going down hill. Further example of how little pin pricks of obstruction (failure to appoint a full Federal Election Commission for example) create major log jams down the road.

Hey! The segue music after the net neutrality piece was great. What is It??? (BTW, are music credits listed on the site?)


Jan. 21 2014 12:51 PM

Net neutrality is an issue that hasn't been squashed yet. It's more important than ever to learn the issues, so here's a great short mockumentary if anyone wants a refresher:‎

Jan. 20 2014 02:44 PM
Brett Glass from Laramie, WY

This piece, alas, paints a misleading picture of the situation. Internet providers cannot "do whatever they want" or "charge whatever they want;" markets constrain them. The so-called "neutrality" regulations don't level a playing field; they tilt it -- in favor of content providers and squarely against ISPs. They also harm competition, discourage innovation and investment, slow performance, and limit consumer choice.

As an Internet service provider myself -- the world's first wireless one, in fact -- I'd be glad to appear on your show and explain the hard realities (which I have to face every day) of the regulations that were partially overturned, of the court ruling, and of being a competitive ISP who provides a choice other than the cable company or the telephone company.

Jan. 19 2014 07:07 PM

It is often the case when policy folks talk with technologists, much is lost in the translation. As the other comments pointed out that Apple OS application ecology is different that Internet access. Many content providers avoided the iOS provisions by just using a mobile web site to provide access to the content on iPhones.

But Net Neutrality is an odd term for talking about unrestricted Internet access. I think it would be helpful to just better understand what the Internet is and how issues of control can happen in terms of networks. First the Internet is just that, an inter-network system, with countless networks that are connected and with packets with pieces for each communication. Packets that make up one stream or communication or document find their way from one network to another, with possibly different routes and being reassembled at the terminus.

In that transit are trips through multiple networks that have peering agreements. In that most people have an ISP that could potentially restrict access and fail to live up to the purpose of the peering nature of the Internet, Net Neutrality seems to focus on this "last mile" of the communication. I would focus on the entire architecture of the Internet instead.

If ISPs start messing with the nature of the Internet, the technical and business arrangement that have kept the Internet humming may be at risk. In a sense, the packets are no longer equal, but may each have different value based on the sender. What is already an interesting architecture of peering with packets taking different routes based on the border gateway protocol may not work if there is pressure to make money on different packets. An ISP that charges the content provider for receiving the packets, where the packets may normally be routed to the ISP through the peering networks, now incentives a tariff system for the packets.

Perhaps I am wrong, and perhaps just referring to the ISP's charging content providers is sufficient for policy discussions. But I would open up the discussion to peering, BGP, IPv6, etc. And then the domain structure comes into play. I remember the bad old days when the domain infrastructure was under attack by AlterNIC. Let's just say that the loose regulation by junior level techies and the understanding that an inter-network depends on equal rules.

And getting involved in the policy by non-techies without understanding the nature of the beast is fraught with danger. Which is not to say that it is not worthy of the discussion. And techies often are the worst to explain or understand policy and regulations. As with most media, there is often very little background understanding, and then jumping in. Please spend some time explaining the subject matter or at least linking to good explanations.

Daniel Bennett

Jan. 19 2014 02:21 PM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

Bad argument. Apple controlling what is available from the Apple store is NOT NET NEUTRALITY. It is a manufacturer maintaining control of their sandbox. It rounds the rough edges of the Internet and is a form of prior restraint. Lucky for us, Apple is NOT the government and if the market lets them, so be it.

Net Neutrality is about whether ISP's can throttle (up or down) content in order to restrict competition. [Cable companies throttling back Netflix because, hey, they are selling the same stuff at a higher mark-up.]

IF the cable company owned the entirety of the communication infrastructure from end to end, this would be a non-issue. They would built, they own it, they can permit, deny, bilk or give away whatever they like.

However, just as the GOP was so fond of misrepresenting in the 2012 cycle "You didn't build that!" The telecommunication infrastructure is not owned by any single entity and they have no right to say who can and cannot use the access ramp - the part of the Internet that actually makes it into peoples' homes. Even attempting to say 'Yes' to this and 'No' to that is misuse of the common.

If they want to throttle, let them roll up their sleeves and build their own damned network. Until then, (especially in a country where 4/5 of the users have no choice of ISP in the marketplace) permitting ISPs to throttle content is our government enabling restraint of trade. We should not do it.

Jan. 19 2014 10:57 AM
Avi Burstein from NY

Professor Siva used the example of Apple blocking certain apps on its devices being an example of the different kind of service that wireless devices are getting compared to wired computers is absolutely wrong.

Unfortunately, he is sadly misinformed. That issue has to do with Apple's desire to restrict what goes on its platform for entirely separate reasons, having nothing to do with net neutrality or connectivity factors. They have similar restrictions on their Mac App Store which supports desktop and laptop computers (see

Most disappointing that a professor should put forward such a flawed argument.

Jan. 18 2014 03:51 PM

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