...And instead talks about the importance of cable TV access

In a recent survey conducted by The Glover Park Group and Public Opinion Strategies LLC, 90 percent of Americans said they preferred to have choices for video service providers over net neutrality. Interestingly, the survey did not appear to address the real issue of net neutrality, which is whether or not network service providers should create tiered networks based on application and client. Instead, survey takers were simply asked whether or not they were more concerned about cable TV choices or net neutrality.

DailyTech has been following the net neutrality topic since the beginning of 2006. So far, the topic is still up in the air, but many content developers are saying that by allowing service providers to create tiered networks, it would impede on the development of Internet services and web applications. If things don't turn out well for net neutrality, Google previously stated it would start filing anti-trust cases against major telcos.

The questions in the survey conducted by The Glover Park Group also seemed to be one sided. For example, the questions about cable TV choices were easy to understand and well explained, but those concerning net neutrality were not. The survey explained that net neutrality as "enhancing Internet neutrality by barring high speed Internet providers from offering specialized services like faster speed and increased security for a fee." Technically, all service providers sell different packages that offer a variety of speeds and email options. From the explanation, the survey made it appear as though the questions were directed at the user, when in fact the issue has to do a lot more with content providers.

For example, we have Content Provider A, which sells books and music CDs online. We also have Content Provider B, which competes with A. We also have an "Internet service provider" that has a large customer base. If Content Provider A pays the "Internet service provider" a certain amount of money to allow users access to its site faster and easier than Content Provider B, herein we have the problem of net neutrality -- or the lack of. From the end user's standpoint, he or she would just be thinking "B seems to always be slow, I think I'll just shop at A."

Despite the obvious flaw in questioning, The Glover Park Group found (PDF) the following:
  • 66 percent were more concerned with delivering TV and video services
  • 19 percent were concerned with net neutrality
  • 3 percent were concerned with both
  • 8 percent were concerned with neither
  • 4 percent didn't know or refused to answer
Interestingly, when asked how many people have even heard of net neutrality, 91 percent said no and only 7 percent said yes. The remaining 1 percent didn't know. In fact, the majority of the survey revolved around cable TV choices. The US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation contracted the survey and published the findings as authoritative, which can be read here. From the release:

The survey found that very few registered voters are familiar with the issue of network neutrality. In some regions of the country, only 5 percent of likely voters had even heard of “Net Neutrality.” The survey found broad support for a “Consumer Internet Bill of Rights,” like that contained in the Senate’s communications bill. The provision contained in the Senate bill prevents Internet service providers from blocking access to competitors or degrading a consumer’s broadband service.  According to the survey, when presented with a choice between video choice and additional net neutrality legislation, an overwhelming majority of voters supported video choice.

In other words, the US government is downplaying the importance of net neutrality for both consumers and content providers by introducing a much more well known everyday topic of cable TV. The poll was funded by Verizon, which previously said that it disagreed with the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (COPE). The COPE act allows local governments to collect up to five percent of fees from Internet service providers to put towards developing high speed access in areas without it. The COPE act also will allow local governments to control what Internet service providers do and what they can charge customers if they are the only provider in a certain area -- i.e. monopoly.

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