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Last week, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget took the first steps in keeping the Internet fair and open.

The office finally signed what is commonly known as the net neutrality rules. Net neutrality goes something like this: The Internet is an open medium and you connect to it via Internet service providers (ISPs) such as AT&T and Verizon.

Net neutrality is the notion that all websites are equal in terms of connection speed and quality and your ISPs are not allowed to discriminate against different kind of content online. For example, net neutrality ensures that a company such as AT&T cannot make your Gmail work more slowly than your Yahoo! Mail just because Yahoo! is an AT&T partner.

Net neutrality has been a hotly debated topic over the past couple of years, and the passage of the regulations will no doubt stoke the flames once again. And while these new guidelines are an important first step toward protecting net neutrality, they do not go far enough.

This ideal has created a level playing field for everyone on the web. Sites including The Daily Texan’s are able to compete with sites such as CNN because both have the same accessibility level. Certain telecommunication companies, however, want to disrupt this equilibrium by becoming gatekeepers of the Internet. They want the authority to decide which websites go fast, slow or won’t go at all. Essentially, these ISPs want to tax the Internet by creating a fast lane for their own web content and those of companies that pay them, while demoting everyone else to the slow lane.

The Federal Communications Commission’s guidelines offer a temporary sigh of relief, as they prohibit ISPs from blocking or impeding web content on their networks. These new rules focus those providing a fixed wire connection.

However, they do not apply to wireless providers, who can monitor various traffic speeds.

With the mass proliferation of smart phones and tablets, wireless devices are growing at a very fast rate and the FCC must expand its ruling to ensure that content accessed wirelessly are not regulated in any manner.

And don’t expect opponents of net neutrality to go away without a fight. The FCC ruling was passed three-to-two, entirely along party lines with the three Democratic commissioners for the new rules and the two Republican commissioners against them. Companies such as Verizon and Metro PCS are expected to challenge the legality of these soon-to-be laws with aid from lawmakers. These opponents argue that the FCC does not have the authority to regulate the Internet and that the new regulations will hurt consumers.

These arguments are flawed on many fronts. The FCC’s goal is to ensure that the Internet remains open and that companies should not be allowed to upset that balance.

While Republican lawmakers want to keep government out of regulating the Internet, passing the reins to companies and allowing their regulations to kick in would clearly hurt consumers. It would force us to partake in a pay-per-view version of the Internet as websites would have to charge a fee to stay on the fast lane.

Just imagine doing a research paper without the use of Google or Wikipedia because you cannot access or pay for them. Net neutrality protects students by providing us the freedom of choice. Because everything online is equal, we can freely choose between different avenues of entertainment or academic related activities. The loss of net neutrality would severely damage our ability to expand our knowledge.

Net neutrality ensures that innovation on the Internet can continue because the next big thing will be accessible by anyone, anywhere. Corporations won’t be able to simply push their way to a top spot on the web simply by paying large sums of money.

The beauty of a free-flowing Internet governed by net neutrality is that it empowers the individual. Anyone with an Internet connection has the ability to access huge troves of digital knowledge for personal uses.

Internet service providers’ jobs are to move data, not to filter it.

Shi is an electrical and computer engineering junior.

Kevin Dunn, host of ESPN’s new Longhorn Network, prepares for a taped segment to be filmed Thursday afternoon in the new Longhorn Network Studio. So far, a lack of distribution deals with media providers will prevent consumer access to the Network until at least Sept. 1.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorn Network landed its first broadcasting contract with a cable provider yesterday, but some fans may not be able to tune in tonight in time for the 6 p.m. launch.

Yesterday, the Longhorn Network, a collaboration between UT and ESPN, and Verizon’s FiOS TV announced a partnership that will allow all FiOS subscribers to tune in to the network beginning Sept. 1, just two days before Texas’ first football game this season against Rice University. As of press time, no other distribution deal has been struck.

FiOS TV is only available in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Verizon spokeswoman Stefanie Scott said the company has no plans to bring the provider to Austin.

Scott said Verizon pursued the partnership in response to consumer demand.

“We see this as an example of Verizon bringing the best in collegiate sports to our customers,” Scott said. “Longhorn fans are the most loyal and enthusiastic in collegiate sports fans.”

Longhorn Network vice president of production Stephanie Druly said network officials are comforted to see the first provider to officially pick up the network. She said the Longhorn Network staff has been preparing for the launch as if they already had a contract in place, so not much has changed.

“As far as how the network is being run, nothing is different,” Druly said.

She said other contracts are in the works and she would not be surprised to see other companies making deals in time for tonight’s launch.

Finance junior Daniel Fechner said he hopes providers can finalize their contracts with the network before the end of the season, but until that happens, he will attend every game possible.

“Time Warner should definitely pick it up,” Fechner said. “I’m not terribly concerned about it because I will be at the games, but I know [the network] will add something to game days.”

Printed on Friday, August 26, 2011 as: Lack of Central Texas distributor won't stall awaited programming.

NEW YORK — Stalled contract negotiations led thousands of workers in Verizon Communication Inc.’s wireline division to go on strike Sunday, potentially affecting landline operations as well as installation of services like FiOS, its fiber-optic television and Internet lines.

The contract for the 45,000 employees from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C., expired at midnight Saturday with the company and the workers unable to come to terms on issues including health care costs and pensions.

The dispute does not affect the company’s wireless division. Verizon is the nation’s largest wireless carrier.

Verizon employees who are members of the Communication Workers of America union picketed headquarters in New York City on Sunday morning.

Vinnie Galvin, 56, said he and his fellow workers are the backbone of the industry.

“Everybody needs to be wired and we’re the people who do that,” said the three-decades-plus veteran of the company. “They’re trying to bust us. ... This is stuff that it took us 40, 50 years to get.”

The affected workers are responsible for maintaining and repairing traditional landlines, as well as installing FiOS, union spokesman Bob Master said.

The company is asking for changes in the contract because it says its wireline business has been in decline for more than a decade as more people switch to using cellphones exclusively.