Once again the enemies of network neutrality are doing their very best to help out those dedicated to pushing through laws to ensure network neutrality on the Internet.
How does this happen? Well, the main opponents to network neutrality on the Internet are the major national ISPs that provide most of the broadband connections for Americans. And many of these very same ISPs are also the large national cell-phone carriers.
And there is no greater example of the potential dangers of an Internet without network neutrality than the major cell phone carrier networks.
As everyone knows, when it comes to phones consumers have little choice. They can’t run whatever hardware they want on whatever network they want to. And many popular services and applications aren’t available across all networks. As I’ve said before, it would be like saying that you can’t run Dell laptops on Comcast or use eBay on Fios.
Of course, this is exactly the situation that the major ISPs would like to have on the Internet. They could bleed Websites and popular applications to have permission to run on their network and could slow down or block entirely those that didn’t work. And they would love to have exclusive hardware deals, in fact, we are almost starting to see this in the field of netbooks.
It would be really bad if this ever happened on the Internet. But thankfully, the actions that the major players regularly take on the wireless Internet continue to serve as strong reminders for the need for network neutrality.
The latest example is the recent Google Voice on the iPhone brouhaha. Many people have been outraged that the popular Google Voice application has been removed from the iPhone Apps store.
The funny thing about this is that, as my colleague Andrew Garcia has pointed out, the most likely culprit for this action is Apple. But given their normal activities, everyone initially assumed that AT&T was behind this action. So even when the carriers probably aren’t behind actions to stifle network neutrality, everyone assumes they are.
Either way, this is a good example of why network neutrality is important. This kind of thing can’t happen on the regular Internet. If you or I or any large company writes an application, we can provide it to anyone who wants it, no matter who their ISP is or what software they run on their system (so long as we’ve written a version for their operating system).
But on the wireless Web, choice really doesn’t exist.