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What’s now called the “net neutrality debate” is really a restatement of a classic question: How should a network’s owner treat the traffic that it carries?

What rights, if any, should a network’s users have versus its owners?

Don’t forget to check out the great free or low-cost training opportunities, plus free professional business counseling, from your local Small Business Development Center!Clicking on each of the templates below will open up a draft for your business that can help you get started.A major goal of these rules, known as the Computer Inquiries, was to protect the stuff “on” the network from the network carrying the traffic.They are therefore fairly described as the “first” net neutrality rules, or the direct ancestor of today’s net neutrality rules.Only he has a different phrase for them: “The Obama administration’s heavy-handed regulations.” Wait a second: Did Obama really invent net neutrality? For better or worse, I was there pretty much from the outset of the modern era.

Even in a country with famously short attention spans, at least some people might have noticed that net neutrality has been around longer than that. In the interest of trying to get things right, I offer this history.The current net neutrality debate took shape during the early broadband era, beginning around 2000.During the 1990s, most people had reached the internet using dial-up services like AOL and Compu Serve (the descendants of the “data-processing industry”), or thousands of small independent Internet Service Providers.Like the first FCC rules described above, this implied, above all, a principle of nondiscrimination—that the owner of the network should not choose what the network be used for.This new design philosophy stood in sharp contrast to AT&T’s philosophy at the time, which emphasized a centrally organized network specialized for specific purposes—modeled, of course, on the telephone network.In the late 1960s, (in a sign of how the politics have changed), the Nixon administration’s FCC sought to increase the prospects for competitors in telephone markets.