I have spent a lot of time on this. I will share where the rabble rousing going on here is _off_, and let you decide.
1) Net Neutrality is...
A new buzzword hijacking 'Open Internet', which is the philosophy carriers and network operators have been using since day one to guide their decisions on how to make the network work. It is based on the idea of fairness, openness, and equal access for everyone as an ideal, but allows for the reality of private ownership of infrastructure, and business drivers that dictate how the network infrastructure is managed and operated.
2) Net Neutrality is NOT..
a) a fight to ensure you 'get what you paid for'. If you believe this, you have been mislead as to what you paid for. You did not pay for 100Mb/s to netflix. You did not pay for 5Mb/s to netflix. You paid for shared public access to the rest of the networks your carrier has connections with, subject to availability of common shared resources, with NO guarantees of uptime, packet delivery or even that it will work when you switch it on. The mentality that 'I'm not getting what I paid for' is promoted by content providers in order to make you feel cheated. it is not reality.
Since people like using roads as an example, I will just point out, your road taxes are small, because you share the roads with everyone in your city. When you all try to go someplace at once, you end up creating congestion. Why are you not out protesting that 'I paid for my lane, the city just needs to build more roads so I don't have to wait'? Because it's a ridiculous statement, thats why. a large percentage of the time, those roads simply aren't over-used, so it would be a poor use of time and materials to make it larger to absorb a short window of time when it's running at capacity.
For those who like to point out how much America sucks for Internet speeds, Whip out your calculator, and tell me how the hell you expect to connect 300 million people spread out over an area of nearly 4 MILLION square miles, for a comparable cost to connecting 25 million people over 38,000 square miles. and 10 million of those people live in one relatively small metro area. Distance covered increases costs, and it's not only unfair but profoundly unrealistic to expect costs to be anywhere close to similar comparing such vastly different infrastructure requirements.
b) a gimmick for your ISP to shake you down for more money to get what you want. If this were true, you would already be paying for access by country or site or anything else. You don't. You won't. The technical challenges alone make this a non-profitable exercise. Anyone remember when some LD companies figured out that billing in 5 minute increments instead of 1 minute increments meant they actually made MORE profit, because they saved on the time and effort it took to do all the accounting?
c) some way to force content providers to choose a slow lane or pay extra for a fast lane. I wouldn't call this 'force'. I would call it the same option that has always been present in the design of the network. I would also observe that the reality of 'fast lane/slow lane' is based on our freeway example, not on some kind of toll road vs HOV lane example. The fact is, the way things work now, the 'fast lane' is dedicated bandwidth a company buys to improve it's performance when transferring larger amounts of data than the shared best effort peering infrastructure is willing to invest in supporting. Throw a little math at the problem. If you have a shared exchange interface with 20 other networks, and ONE network is consuming > 50% of the bandwidth, that is UNFAIR to all the other networks, if that also means the total bandwidth begins to regularly exceed the available bandwidth. To further simplify matters, lets say 95% of that bandwidth is coming from ONE customer on that other network. The network engineers all look at each other and say 'this isn't natural growth of the network, this is someone ass-raping the infrastructure, and we can't justify improving it on our side, because _that isn't what that link is for_. It's supposed to be used fairly evenly by everyone.
So, forget about 'fast lane/slow lane'. We are talking about endless lines of 5 tractor trailer long conveys trying to run through downtown during rush hour. If the city says "we can't justify freeway upgrades because shipping company X has decided to build just outside our tax base, in an area that doesn't have enough road infrastructure, and isn't willing to help us upgrade, they are just going to have to suffer until we come up with a better plan', the company doesn't get to sue the city for not providing them with free additional resources so they can line their pockets without giving something back. The obvious answer is, either move to someplace where you have the infrastructure (Buy transit from a bigger/better ISP) or whip out your checkbook, and build better infrastructure on your own (Buy a bunch of private data lines that ONLY go to each ISP with a critical number of eyeballs for your service).
It's worth noting, every single RESPONSIBLE content provider on the planet understands this business model. They recognize that Internet Infrastructure is not unlimited, not freely available, and has performance limitations subject to the reality of the business relationships between network providers. The ONLY content provider with enough muscle to try and avoid this responsibility is Netflix. They have enough money to make this a media circus, complete with pet politicians, to try and convince everyone that 'Internet' is some common pool of unlimited bandwidth that is SUPPOSED to provide you with vast amounts of high quality connectivity between you and them. and anyone that says otherwise is "anti-competitive" or "pro-big business' (what the hell is netflix, if not big?) or some how 'anti-freedom'...
d) about being fair. The proposed demands the crowd is throwing out are not about making the network 'fair'. The nonsense of 'every packet should be treated equally' highlights the vast amount of ignorance on the subject, in favor of making people feel like they are somehow loosing their freedom if we don't impose some authority behind the rules that are currently mutually beneficial and mutually self-policing. NO ONE WINS WHEN ISPS MESS WITH EACH OTHER. They all know it. it's a recipe for mutually assured destruction, and bad for business. Demanding that every packet gets treated equally, simply means taking the day to day management of the network, the thing that keeps it up and running, and subjecting it to a non-technical, idealistic, and harmful review. What you end up with is a long list of 'exemptions' , which will take the teeth out of such 'equality' rules, and enable the carriers to just shrug their shoulders and say 'sorry, we are in compliance with the FCC, we can't do anything about whats going on, unless we want to get fined. your just going to have to deal with the huge DDOS attack coming from my 5 million virus infected cable users... every packet is equal!' What prevents that now? Simple. without out a rulebook full of exemptions, the operators are free to use their own judgment, and work together to ensure the network remains stable and viable. And they all remember who helped them out when 'we had a bug in BGP and told the entire planet we were the default gateway for everything'...
e) ISPs want to 'double dip'... This is simply Bullshyt. The story is that ISPs want to charge content providers for 'better' access to their customers, 'forcing' said ISPs to get paid twice, once from the end user and once from the content provider. This is generally how it works. Everyone pays for their own connection. So, there is no 'double dip' going on here. The reality is, content providers seem to be ignoring the reality of how the network is built and maintained. if you want best effort access, you go through the peering points with everyone else. which means your going to be subject to the whims of every operator who's interfaces you route through. If they don't like the fact that their 'equal peering to 30 carriers' interface now looks like '90% from one AS number' (which is probably a violation of the peering arrangements in the first place), you can expect a call from said carrier asking that you buy a dedicated line (at a steep discount) into their network so they can offload the peering, and everyone wins. Content provider gets better access and actual service guarantees, ISP is able to offload a public infrastructure, customers have an 'end to end' managed experience. The ONLY person who has a problem with this scenario, is the accounting department at the content provider, who screams they are already paying for 'internet' from a different carrier, and they shouldn't HAVE to buy more bandwidth from a different carrier! I really blame all this 'double dipping' nonsense on AT&T from about 6-7 years ago. They were talking about this exact issue, but chose to make it sound like they were some how 'entitled' to get paid from both the content provider and the end user, without providing any services to the content provider. I believe he actually said they were getting cheated by content providers who were relying on AT&T to just mindlessly upgrade their public facilities to accommodate them, at no charge.
Bottom Line: The folks who actually deal with these issues in a live and real setting have been discussing the nuances of what open internet _is_, and they have been AGAINST the mischaracterization netflix has chosen to use, in order to attempt to drive some commercial benefit for themselves at EVERYONE elses' expense. Netflix is not a 'victim' of evil ISPs business practices, they are the reason ISPs created the peering and transit rules that exist now. It's only since netflix was able to swing so MUCH raw data across the network, that it has become a problem, and they believe this has enabled them to dictate to the network operators, that their business plan (buying the cheapest bandwidth they can from the lowest cost provider) is more important than the realities of supporting the network.