Net Neutrality is an important and complicated part of a Free and Open Internet. Practically, among all topics of discussion on the internet, it is undermined or many people haven’t heard of. In this post we will discuss in detail about what is Net Neutrality, why it is important, Net Neutrality around the world, its advantages and disadvantages.
What is Net Neutrality
Net Neutrality also called as Network Neutrality (Net = Network, Neutral = to be equal) means that the Internet Service Providers are not allowed to differentiate with traffic based on source, destination or type of the data.
Fig. 1 – Introduction to Net Neutrality
For Instance– Irrespective of what you talk about or how you talk about it, the telephone service costs the same. It costs the same to talk to your family member as to your boss, and it costs the same to make a voice call as to send an email or fax. The telephone service may charge more for talking longer or for long-distance calls, for voice mail or for a higher-quality connection, but it may not charge different rates for different content.
Fig. 2 – Net Neutrality Access Model
Why Net Neutrality is Important
Open approach to knowledge and information is a basic fundamental right. If Network Neutrality isn’t there, ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) can give more browsing and data speeds to some websites or choke the access to others. They could even block access to some sites altogether, at most extreme.
For example– An ISP owns a website. With Net neutrality in place, it can’t block access to its competitor websites, whatsoever, or double the speed of videos from its own website in an effort to drive and gain viewers.
If Network Neutrality isn’t applied, following are some of the freedoms that we fear will go away:
- Freedom from monopolies.
- Freedom to start new business and compete on same level with the older, existing and bigger ones.
- Freedom of online speech.
- Freedom to browse any site at the fastest speed.
Consider Fig.3 (below) which shows the representation of Interaction between Internet Service Providers, Content Providers, and Users. CP or Content Providers deliver content through ISP to end-Users. ISP (Internet Service Provider) may increase bandwidth to subscribers irrespective of advertising revenues that will benefit Content Providers (CP). Likewise, Content Provider may introduce new applications as per subscribers demand irrespective of the effect on rent by ISP. This principle or regulation would be Neutral to All.
Fig. 3 – Interaction between Internet Service Providers, Content Providers and Users
Net Neutrality Around the World
- Network neutrality impacts people around the world.
- India – In response to a 2015 move by Telecom operator Airtel to add additional charges for calls made over the internet, Net Neutrality laws in India came into force in 2018.
- U.S. – US President Barack Obama came in support of Network Neutrality and ensure that neither the phone nor the cable company will restrict anything online.
- Russia – Russia support Network Neutrality laws in 2016.
- Australia –There are no Network Neutrality laws in Australia and it’s not changing any time soon.
Fig. 3 – Internet with and without Network Neutrality
Advantages of Network Neutrality
The advantages of Net Neutrality include:
- No Restrictions – There are no restrictions on access of internet (except for what local government has decided), like there is no restriction over sending email, file sharing, voice calls, video calls etc. Without Network Neutrality, it would be very simple for Internet Service Providers to control or mould the browsing patterns and habits of its user base with the help of pricing, giving different speeds for various sites and such other methods.
- No Choking / Throttling – There are no restrictions on download or upload transfer speeds.
- No Censorship – There are no restrictions or limits on how much or what one should download or upload.
- Lower cost of Internet – If Network Neutrality is abolished, all the popular applications like Facebook, WhatsApp will charge higher price.
Disadvantages of Network Neutrality
The disadvantages of Net Neutrality include:
- Higher Expenditure – ISP could charge more money for more access of internet.
- Ease of access for certain sites – Due to Net Neutrality, objectionable contents like obscene videos are easily accessible.
- Anti competition– ISP could block access to competitor’s sites. Hence no competition would be there.
The Internet should be a equal and neutral place for all of its users. Not all cars created are the same, but all should be allowed on the highway. The same is true with Internet traffic. Increased usage of files, file sharing as well as profits are all issues to the Internet corporations. What this is about, though, is the consumer. It’s the consumer that the corporations should cater too, and it’s the consumer that counts.