two-tiered Internet

Two-tiered Internet refers to proposed changes in Internet architecture that would give priority to the traffic of those who have paid for premium service.

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Two-tiered Internet refers to proposed changes in Internet architecture that would give priority to the traffic of those who have paid for premium service. Inherent in the model is the possibility for discrimination between different types of content and services. For example, high speed ISPs might favor classified listings from corporate partners instead of other, unaffiliated partners. The two-tiered Internet is already being implemented on a small scale by some Internet service providers (ISPs).

The proposed changes conflict with one of the fundamental concepts of the Internet, network neutrality. In a neutral model, traffic is traffic: no preference is given on the basis of source or content. The inherent democratic nature of net neutrality has enabled the Internet to develop as it has, toward the increasingly user-defined model that is sometimes referred to as Web 2.0.

At a recent conference on the future development of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee spoke out against the two-tiered model: "What's very important from my point of view is that there is one web. Anyone that tries to chop it into two will find that their piece looks very boring."

This was first published in September 2006

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