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Lola Olokodana 

US vote on net neutrality: is all content created equal?

Ed Vaisey

The current debate on "net neutrality" is expected to come to a head in the US today.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is likely to vote in favour of enforcing the concept, which pre-dates the internet back to the telegraph era and has been described by a US senator as "the most important free speech issue of our time".

Simply put, net neutrality is the idea that all legal traffic on the internet should be treated equally and that ISPs should be unable to segregate or discriminate, whether in an attempt to stifle competition, or block certain types of traffic.

This vote follows the FCC's attempt to curb ComCast from slowing access to rival applications in April, and as many more turn to smart phones for internet access, and the internet for television, the race to gain control over the content that reaches our devices is hotting up.

A celebrity-backed campaign to prevent the ending of net neutrality has gained momentum on both sides of the pond, with many fearing that it would lead to a two-tiered future for the internet.

The vote will be followed closely in the UK, as supporters of net neutrality petitioned communications minister Ed Vaizey (pictured) at the start of this month, after many understood his remarks on the concept in November as meaning he was open to a two-speed internet.

Vaizey later stated that he was against anti-competitive behaviour, and did not support, for instance, BT being able to charge the BBC for faster transmission into people's homes.

The open letter, also sent to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and business secretary Vince Cable, from 19 organisations including eBay, Skype, Which? and The National Union of Journalists, called for a commitment to enforce net neutrality and stick to principles such as minimal traffic management, the free distribution of information, increased investment in infrastructure, and a sound regulatory framework.

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