Here is the fourth and final part of the series of blogs about net neutrality. In parts one, two and three I discussed the implications if the net stopped being neutral. But there is reason to believe the US Government will support neutrality.
The US Department of Justice’s submission to the FCC may have landed a hard blow in support of allowing telcos to put short-term profits ahead of everything else – including long-term profits and the good of the wider economy. But the submission is by no means the end of the line for the net neutrality argument. The FCC may well pay more heed to the arguments raised by internet founders like Vint Cerf, one of the men who created the TCP/IP protocols, than they do to ideologically dogmatic lawyers in a cushy government job. Cerf recently gave an excellent summary of the net neutrality hazards, amongst other things, whilst speaking to the Financial Times – watch the video here. Though even if the FCC screws up, it may not mean the complete end for US domination of the internet. Cerf is also one of the most outspoken advocates for the transition from IPv4 to IPv6. By having a lot more capacity for IP addresses, migrating to IPv6 will avoid a rapidly-emerging bottleneck as all the possible IPv4 addresses get used up. This is vital for the developing world, which will need an increasing share of IP addresses in line with its rapid and increasing take up of internet devices, including mobile phones. Access to the internet will be key to enabling their economies to communicate, access information, and compete fairly with the rest of the world, hence fueling growth and prosperity. So a conspiracy theorist might fear that a laggardly approach to IPv6 migration may help the US to continue to dominate the internet. There is little cause to entertain conspiracies yet. In fact, the US government set June 2008 as its deadline for when all US government agencies must have transitioned to IPv6. How ironic that whilst one branch of the US government helps to open up the internet all around the world, another branch, if it gets its way, would impede the benefits the internet brings to US citizens.