The Federal Communications Commission is about to codify the open structure of the Internet. The FCC has presented a slate of suggested regulations and invited others to comment and fine-tune the rules.
In the red corner
Privacy and deregulation proponents like the Electronic Frontier Foundation tend to oppose the FCC regulating network practices at all. In part, they argue that less regulation is always better for the consumer. Moreover, the EFF doesn't think that Congress has endowed the FCC with the powers it would need in order to have any regulatory powers over Internet traffic policy in the first place.
On the other extreme end of the spectrum, you'll find companies like recent eBay
And in the blue corner
It's no surprise to find Google
But Google also worked up a joint statement with Verizon
Note that AT&T
Other commenters of note include performing artists like R.E.M., Pearl Jam, and They Might Be Giants, who argue that their modern-style marketing and fan outreach tactics wouldn't work in the long run without regulation-protected Internet access.
While I don't expect the rock 'n' roll arguments to carry much weight with the FCC on their own, they could help build a grassroots movement, inspiring people to write in with support for the neutrality cause. And the argument largely applies to anybody who makes a living by promoting their businesses or activities over the Internet, all the way down to Aunt Edna's Wicker Basket eBay Shoppe.
With more supporters than detractors, including supposed bandwidth Scrooges like Verizon, the FCC looks likely to pass openness regulations in some form. You won't notice a thing, because the Net will continue to work like it does today -- and that's the whole point.
Why should I care, then?
If you're invested in companies like Google, Skype (nice to see you, private equity dudes!), or Netflix
The FCC expects network traffic to quintuple in the next three to five years and grow a staggering 30-fold before 2020. The networking infrastructure and regulatory policies we have today were simply not designed for such massive bandwidth demands, and both need to evolve very quickly. I wish Google, R.E.M., Skype, and Verizon my Foolish best on the way to establishing a legal framework that could hold us over for the foreseeable future. And I sure hope that future is further off than "next Wednesday."
Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Netflix and Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. He does have a long history of tracking network neutrality issues. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple, eBay, and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor choices. Motley Fool Options has recommended a bull call spread on eBay. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.