To second what Monica said below about what seems to be Federal Communication Commission chair Julius Genachowski's intention to adopt an approach to net neutrality that exempts wireless Internet connections: She's absolutely right that that the exemption is extra worrisome when it comes to communities where smartphones are how people access the Internet, which in the United States includes communities of color and poorer communities. For many people, the Internet is wireless and mobile, and a neutrality exemption that allows Internet providers to discriminate on what sort of content and services they see potentially hits them extra hard.
But to extend the point, it's worth keeping in mind that the Internet as we know it is trending mobile for many, many, many people. Just under 30 percent of iPad users, for example, now use that Apple device as their primary computer, according to a small Business Insider survey. (We'll leave aside for the moment the fact that making a distinction between neutrality-enforced wireline Internet and less regulated wireless Internet, as Genachowski seems prepared to do, gets enormously confusing when you consider that your iPad can switch between 3G AT&T service and your home wifi -- and thus, wireline -- network without you even noticing.) Carving out wireless from the neutrality rules that the FCC otherwise seems prepared to generally stand behind as an ideal approach is akin to regulating car safety for manual transmission cars but not automatic ones. People are turning to their cellphones and iPhones and iPads and other wireless devices to get online more and more, which is one reason that the telcos are so eager to get a more favorable government treatment of how they do business there. As for the question of how the Internet providers handle the bandwidth demands of all that Internet consumption, it's a reasonable question. But the neutrality question isn't about pure usage. It's perfectly kosher for companies to, as AT&T is now doing with its iPad, charge, say, a set $25 a month fee for two gigabytes of wireless data. A wireless neutrality exemption is about giving those companies the ability to shape how the Internet looks and works to people using mobile devices, which is a great and getting greater number of people.
-- Nancy Scola
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