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CIPS Members Blog: "Net Neutrality required by IT Ethics"

By Donna Lindskog I.S.P. (ret.) - 02/09/2017

Trump picked Ajit Pai as the chairman for the FCC.  Pai is known to oppose net neutrality as it is defined by the FCC. Net Neutrality ensures network carriers do not prioritize some traffic over others. IT professionals should be concerned that net neutrality is in danger in the United States. 

IT professionals should be speaking up to ensure access to the internet remains fair. We have a responsibility to the public to speak up on technology issues where we are the experts.

The public may not understand how unique the internet is. We know that all the other networks are governed by economics and whoever can pay the most money controls the access and the message.  On the internet the aim is to have all traffic treated the same, nothing blocked or slowed down or routed differently. This allows all the voices/ apps / people to have a fair chance at succeeding. Our job is to protect that right for the public even if they don’t know that they need it.

Here in Canada CIPS defines a set of ethics for IT professionals. These require that we protect the public interest. We know that once some companies in the USA can gain special speeds or preference the argument will be that Canadian companies need that too so they can be competitive. The circumstances that have allowed a neutral network are special and they are unlikely to happen again if we let it slip away. 

IT departments everywhere make use of the internet and individuals in every company should be working to ensure this option is available for their designs. We need to work through whatever organizations we deal with to keep these standards net neutral.

Deciding what IT standards are required by ethics should be a constant conversation in our profession. How much should usability standards include tags and other markers for the blind? (consider alternative interfaces for accessibility). How clean does data have to be before we can call a conversion complete? (here I am thinking of the federal government payroll system project).  How many twists can some “black box” code hide before it is not doing what is “expected” (here I am thinking of the VW emissions code). Having a code of ethics does not mean we are done. We need to continue to think about what our ethics require.

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