The benefits and risks of mandating network neutrality
The concept of a “common carrier,” dating from 16th century English common law, captures many similar concepts.A common carrier, in its original meaning, is a private entity that performs a public function (the law was first developed around port authorities).
The hard question, of course, is what exactly is “neutral? Origins of the Debate The Net Neutrality debate grew out of the concerns in the late 1990s about possible threats to the end-to-end nature of the internet.
As documented by Mark Lemley and Lawrence Lessig in particular, the concern was that the vertical integration of cable firms with ISPs would prove a threat to the e2e design of the internet.
The idea is that a maximally useful public information network aspires to treat all content, sites, and platforms equally.
This allows the network to carry every form of information and support every kind of application.
One suggested remedy was allowing consumers their choice of ISPs, usually called an "open access remedy." Another idea was an anti-discrimination rule.
This paper, Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination, written in 2002, argued that a discrimination rule was the best way, and in fact better than open access remedies, as a means to protect a neutral network.
A Comment on the End-to-End Debate Journal of Telecommunications and High Technology Law, Vol.
3, 2004 Network Neutrality and the Economics of Congestion Georgetown Law Journal, Vol.
The general purpose and neutral nature of the electric grid is one of the things that make it extremely useful.
The electric grid does not care if you plug in a toaster, an iron, or a computer.
The wikipedia entry is too prone to fights and some of the other web sites are deliberately misleading.