Update: The FCC has repealed net neutrality rules.
Net Neutrality – All content on the internet should be treated equally
Net neutrality is a plan that will affect every internet user in the US, which means you too! Let’s take a look at what net neutrality actually is:
- Net neutrality is a set of laws mandating Internet Service Providers (ISP) to treat any and all data on the internet equally.
- Not to differentiate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication.
The idea/law has been around since early 2000, but it wasn’t until 2015 when it ignited a widespread debate.
So, what’s at risk?
Doing away with Net Neutrality will allow ISPs to decide which websites succeed at loading or fail. Also, ISPs would be allowed by law to deliberately slow down your internet traffic, otherwise known as ISP throttling.
The internet has become a platform with no governance, which raises questions like who should have the authority over the information flowing freely on the internet.
Who should get to control what information is flowing on the internet? That is the core of the debate around the pros and cons of net neutrality. On one side of the equation, the idea of being able to enjoy free speech, be involved in innovative processes, and not have unreasonable limits placed on one’s internet usage is an attractive reason to support net neutrality.
Without net neutrality, those who provide services to consumers to access the internet would have more control. They could put severe caps on internet use, potentially limit individual subscribers who are critical of them or charge enormous fees for services, so that internet access is available to only a wealthy few.
Net Neutrality Pros and Cons
The pros and cons of net neutrality often stir a passionate debate. Here are some of the other key points to think about.
Pros of Net Neutrality
- No discriminatory practices
With Net Neutrality already in place, ISPs have minimal freedom on what passes through their infrastructure, giving more autonomy to users. While controls exist for any unlawful activities, companies like AT&T and Comcast are powerless to modify how a user’s required data is provided to them.
What this means is that, under net neutrality, an ISP cannot block access, change services, or change the flow of data simply because they’re suspicious of your online activities.
- Supports advancements
There are innumerable companies which are now worth billions of dollars only because of the help of a free and open internet. These companies wouldn’t have gotten this far if it weren’t for the internet.
Advancements and innovations are what leads towards progression. Net Neutrality treats individuals, small businesses and large businesses alike.
- Freedom of speech
The whole idea behind the immense success of the internet is the freedom of speech. People from around the world can share their opinions and vent out their feelings through social platforms, blogs, websites, and other platforms.
Additionally, online services and small businesses depend on the availability of the internet to be able to go about their daily online activities. However, if any illegal content is found to be present on the web, it can be reported to authorities.
- Criminal activities are monitored online
With the freedom of sharing and receiving almost any information online, Net Neutrality provides internet users with an ideal online experience. What this means is that while you enjoy making use of what the internet has to offer, illegal activities are still prohibited.
- ISPs would be categorized as a utility provider
Like any other utility like water or access to electricity, ISPs – that are needed by almost every household to connect with the outer world – will be considered as utility providers.
With ISPs becoming a utility, you will be charged a standard rate for the type of internet bandwidth you have subscribed to plus additional for more services.
Cons of Net Neutrality
- Massive volumes of data gets consumed without recompense
The internet was not designed with the intention of streaming or making use of massive volumes of data. The idea of streaming came later on when the internet started becoming a part of daily life.
Today, there are dozens of real-time video call apps that connect people from around the world. Additionally, streaming services like Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, etc. provide HD content which utilizes increased volumes of bandwidth without charging the user according to the bandwidth consumed.
- Less income from internet users restricts infrastructure developments
The truth is that every internet user has varying internet needs, and they consume internet bandwidth based on those needs. If Net Neutrality is removed, internet users who consume high volumes of data will be asked to pay more.
However, this increased income could then be used to improve existing groundwork and also to establish fiber networks that will enhance the overall infrastructure and provide internet access to many more communities.
- Priorities will be assigned by the ISP
It’s important to understand that your ISP is the primary source of your internet. If you wish to stream Netflix, Hulu, etc. online, then your ISP may fluctuate your internet connection. Here’s why: your ISP may slow down your speed as it may be getting a better cut from the competing service.
For example: Netflix may pay a royalty to your ISP for providing smooth internet speeds for better streaming. As a result, your ISP may slow down streaming on Hulu and other rival streaming services.
- Uncertain content prospers in Net Neutrality
You will find almost every sort of material on the web, and some may be offensive. Net Neutrality doesn’t discriminate nor impose strict laws against some forms of content. You can come across a person’s own religious belief to explicit videos which are not appropriate for children.
While you can get a hold of tools and report the content, Net Neutrality makes this content accessible to you right on your devices without filtering it out.
The internet has slowly become a utility that has attracted a lot of profits, allowing internet service providers to expand their infrastructure. However, without Net Neutrality, an ISP can charge whatever price they wish and limit access to whomever they want.
These biased limitations may lead to demographic discrimination, socioeconomic discrimination, or worse – categorizing content as per social classes and prioritizing content to the well-off individuals who are willing to pay high prices for faster data speeds.
Businesses consume a lot of internet bandwidth and ISPs might start charging more to companies as compared to an average internet user. This may also result in complimentary site giveaways to corporations, for example, if your ISP is Comsat and you’ve taken a massive usage plan, Comsat may allow you to make use of Facebook for free.
However, these very charges will then be passed on to other customers which may lead to an increase in the subscription plan for numerous streaming channels like Netflix, Hulu, etc.