Net neutrality is the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated the same by Internet service providers, governments and anyone else who is in charge of providing Internet service. This topic has seen a lot of debate in the United States, especially with the introduction of bills such as SOPA and CISPA, and it's becoming a hot button issue over in Europe as well.
According to ZDNet, The European Commission's digital chief is working on a net neutrality plan to help the 100 million Europeans who deal with Internet restrictions. Netherlands and Slovenia already have net neutrality regulations in place, but other countries face issues such as blocked services like Skype and degraded service due to anti-competition acts by the Internet service providers.
Proposed European Legislation
The European Commission's proposed laws do not provide true net neutrality, as companies are still able to prioritize certain types of traffic under these regulations. However, they are barred from actively blocking or degrading performance on a specific service, port, or website, according to Engadget. Stopping providers from downgrading and blocking services is a big step for European net neutrality. Another part of the proposed legislation makes ISPs spell out their terms in clear, easy to understand language. They also cannot make customers jump through hoops in order to use a different service.
Currently, The United States does not prevent ISPs from blocking ports, degrading service quality, or hampering a customer's ability to host websites. If Europe passes these regulations into law, the US might be more open to allowing more net neutrality regulations to be implemented.
The CISPA Issue
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, known as CISPA, recently passed the House of Representatives, although it has not gotten final approval in the Senate due to problems with privacy and liberties, according to NBC News. This bill allows Internet traffic information to be shared with various entities, such as the government, technology companies, and other companies. The goal of this bill is to reduce the threat and occurrence of cyber attacks and cyber terrorism.
Of major concern are DDOS, or distributed denial of service, attacks that can bring websites, networks, and companies to their knees, according to InternetProviders.com. This kind of situation fuels the lobbyists who want to implement strong Internet security laws, but Internet security cannot come at the cost of giving up Internet freedom.
The Future of Net Neutrality
True net neutrality is a difficult goal to achieve while still protecting the Internet from massive cyber attacks, terrorism and hackers. This balancing act will take time, experimentation and revisiting the regulations and bills as the Internet and technology evolves. Europe is making strong steps in favor of net neutrality, although the effectiveness of these regulations won't be known until they get ISPs on board.
US net neutrality bills have been proposed, but none have made it into law. The main focus of these laws are preventing tiered Internet service, such as those that require you to purchase a business package in order to get ports unblocked for running servers, and those who offer more expensive service plans to use programs, such as VOIP calling. Another issue is content blocking on the ISP level. Another net neutrality topic addresses treating all Internet traffic the same, regardless of the network it was connecting through or the type of content. With cyber security topics being strongly lobbied for, net neutrality is an uphill battle in the US.