Does Net Neutrality Only Matter to Nerds?

A techie fixation becomes the topic du jour

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For years, the issue of net neutrality has been an obsession for technology writers. For everyone else, it's been a fairly esoteric subject. The basic principal "net neut" advocates rally behind is that Internet users should not be restricted by how much bandwidth they use while surfing the net. Tuesday's appeals court ruling angered advocates because it prevents the FCC from imposing net neutrality regulations on Internet service providers (ISP) such as Comcast. But it remains to be seen if the general public will express the kind of outrage brewing in the tech blogosphere. Is net neutrality ultimately just a nerd issue?

  • Yes: Laymen Need Not Worry About It , writes Holman Jenkins at The Wall Street Journal. He calls the net neutrality issue a "fetish" that's divorced from reality. There's enough competition in the marketplace to keep Web providers "honest in delivering consumers access to the content they want," Jenkins writes. The FCC doesn't need to impose itself because alternatives to Comcast are emerging "faster than anybody expected." This is evident by the competition between fixed and mobile networks. The advent of alternatives like AT&T's 3G network, Line2, Sprint's WiMax phone technology and separate WiFi hotspot networks will ensure that Web providers treat customers fairly, Jenkins argues.
  • Hold On: Everyone Should Be Concerned About Net Neutrality, argues David Carr at The New York Times. Increasingly, everyday people are streaming movies and television on computers and wireless devices. "What if your Internet provider could either charge you more for doing it or tell you that certain times of the day it's not ok to stream video?" asks Carr. "It ends up being a far more significant issue."
  • The Ruling Could Also Restrict the Sites We Can Visit, writes Ryan Singel at Wired: "Now broadband companies effectively have no regulations that constrain them, as the FCC has left itself with no statutory means to control what telecoms do with their internet networks. A broadband company could, for instance, ink a deal with Microsoft to transfer all attempts to reach to The only recourse a user would have, under the ruling, would be to switch to a different provider — assuming, of course, they had an alternative to switch to."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.