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If we're not worried about the future of the Internet, why are these experts?

Published: Saturday, July 12 2014 5:05 a.m. MDT

Updated: Saturday, July 12 2014 11:12 a.m. MDT

The internet's future, as a result of net neutrality, may be questionable.

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A new report from the Pew Research Center last week found that many experts are worried about the future of the Internet.

The center surveyed more than 1,400 Internet experts, many of whom expressed concerns about the digital future given factors from countries like Egypt, China and others limiting access to commercial pressure potentially limiting public access to the Web.

Less than half (35 percent) of the respondents said there would be "significant changes for the worse" for Internet accessibility by 2025, but the 65 percent who said they didn't think things would get worse often qualified that response in their explanations, the report cited.

"Some who answered 'no' wrote in their elaboration on the question that their answer was their 'hope' and not necessarily their prediction," the report elaborated.

It's likely many of the experts were taking this summer's heated net-neutrality debate into consideration when making their predictions. Back in May, the Federal Communications Commission approved to open net-neutrality rules for public comment.

Unless the FCC eventually decides to reclassify Internet service providers and define new rules under its own auspices, telecommunications companies like Comcast or AT&T could charge services like YouTube, Netflix or other websites a premium for better bandwidth.

Opponents like Forbes' Steven Salzberg say not reclassifying would give providers far too much power, while others like Vox's Timothy B. Lee point out that reclassification would lead to innumerable lawsuits, political backlash and discourage fiscal growth.

While the comment period over broadband companies continues, experts are now questioning whether big online businesses like Google or Amazon could also threaten Internet neutrality, as Forbes' Naomi Shavin reported last week. Covering a panel on net accessibility at the University of Navarra Business School, Shavin said experts debated how these "behemoths" decide what's relevant on the Web through sponsored search results.

"Is the Internet, with net neutrality, like water and electricity and gasoline, where you pay for the amount that you use, without the price being determined by the object you use it for? Or is the Internet, with net neutrality, like the printing press, where those who own the presses can accept or reject content and therefore need to be governed by special laws to enforce freedom of expression and access to information?" Shavin wrote. "Ideally, it would be both."

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com, Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

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