FAQ: Net neutralityBrian Cooley answers your frequently asked questions about Net neutrality.
-I'm Brian Cooley answering your frequently asked questions about net neutrality. Question: What is net neutrality? Simply put it's the concept that all traffic flows over the internet without preference. Now, that doesn't mean that a video arrives as quickly as let's say an e-mail, but it does mean for example your ISP won't give preference to 1 source of streaming video over another. Why should I care? Well, it has been the de facto way the internet works. And as a result, websites, chats, streaming, internet phone calls, what have you, all operate over the internet's pipelines on a fairly leveled playing field. Now, ISPs have always controlled and prioritized traffic to manage their networks, but there's a concern that without formal rules about neutrality, that kind of management could be [unk] it up for competitive reasons and not just technical ones. Here's one example. If your ISP offered a streaming video service, it might be given priority on their network over competing video services. That means it might work really well while competing services might buffer and stutter or not be available at all. There might be noting to do about this or the competing services might have to pay a fee to your ISP to equal access and that might be passed on to you as a higher cost or increased advertising. Won't the government sort this out? Well, the FCC thought it could enforce net neutrality, but a recent court ruling indicated it does not really have sufficient jurisdiction over the internet. Congress could enact legislations to mandate net neutrality, but that would involve lengthy input from ISPs, content publishers, users, rights groups on a medium that's always changing, so the law would likely be out of sync, right out of the box, and perhaps stifle innovation as much as an absence of neutrality one. What's next? One thing all may key on in the near term is a suggested policy framework offered recently by Verizon and Google. It suggests formally barring any wired internet provider from discriminating against or prioritizing internet traffic solely to create a competitive advantage, but note that it makes no mention of wireless networks. In fact, it carves those out of the neutrality vision, and that's where all the explosive growth is occurring in internet connectivity. For more on this issue, read Maggie Reardon's detailed FAQ and follow CNET's ongoing news coverage of this topic. You'll find them both at faq.cnet.com. I'm Brian Cooley.