What is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality is a term coined by Tim Wu, a Columbia University professor.
According to him, Net Neutrality means to treat all content, sites and platforms equally on a public information network. It enables access, choice and transparency of internet to every user. It is an important part of free and open internet.
The concept of Net Neutrality is that the companies that provide you with internet access (Internet Service Provider or ISP) should not dictate how you use the Internet.
For example, America’s ISP such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T should not be allowed to block you from opening a website, stop you from using an application like Skype or Netflix or make a certain websites or services work faster than others.
ISPs must be able to charge only for the data that you upload or download instead of being able to charge extra for where you upload or download that data.
As an example, an ISP might want to let you use service X (a video chatting service) at high speed at standard rates, but if you want to use Skype or other services, they will charge you extra. ISPs will slow down the connection when you are using Skype if you are not paying extra.
But Net Neutrality doesn’t just cover streaming video. It also ensures that you can use the devices that you want.
Under the current net neutrality rules, your internet provider can’t stop you from connecting any laptop, tablet, smartphone, or WiFi router you want to your home network. Without net neutrality, broadband companies and cell carriers could let traffic flow faster to one brand of phone or computer over another. And that’s just the beginning.
In short, Net Neutrality seeks to preserve how the internet is currently used.
Which country has net neutrality law?
Chile was the first when it made Net Neutrality provisions to its General Telecommunications Law in 2010.
On June 1, 2014, Chile put an end to giving big companies “zero-rating” access to their services. Zero-rating refers to large companies, like Facebook, being able to make deals with mobile operators to offer the most basic version of their service without charging customers for data use.
The Netherlands became the second country to adopt Net Neutrality, in 2011. It bans mobile telephone operators from blocking or charging consumers extra for using communications services that are internet-based. As a result, mobile operators there raised charges overall to compensate for revenue lost due to the restrictions.
The most recent country is Brazil, which adopted the legislation on April 22, 2014. It bars telecom companies from charging higher rates for access to content requiring more bandwidth, such as movie streaming. It not only limits the gathering of metadata but also holds the large companies accountable for the security of Brazilians’ data, even if it is stored abroad.
This means websites like Facebook and Google will be subject to Brazil’s laws and courts. The legislation also establishes that service providers are accountable for content published by users and must comply with court orders to remove libelous or offensive material.
The pros and cons of net neutrality?
- Freedom on the internet.
- People can access any website available on internet without paying extra.
- Competition and Innovation.
- No throttling of traffic from ISPs.
- Protecting the average user from the power user
- Users who download gigabytes of data may unfairly hog bandwidth resources from those who don’t. By throttling certain users or types of data, ISPs can be sure that every user has an optimal experience.
- Preventing illegal activity
- ISPs generally want to prevent illegal file sharing over their networks, both due to the legal issues and for preventing users unfairly hogging bandwidth.
- Privilege Special Services
- Certain important internet services require heavy and uninterrupted bandwidth use, such as medical services or VOIP. ISPs want to give special preference to these unique services that could benefit from special treatment, and possibly could not exist without this preferential treatment.
Future of Net Neutrality
In America, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has the authority to enforce its net neutrality regulations. However, last month, the Republican-led FCC started the process of overturning the agency’s authority.
Top ISPs such as Comcast are already working on its own smart home platform and would certainly have the motivation to create fast and slow lanes for particular gadgets and services. This wouldn’t turn out well for competition or innovation.
Without the FCC’s net neutrality rules, providers might also be free to force you to rent a cable modem or WiFi router, or even to charge you for each computer, tablet, or gadget you connect to the web. Instead of one flat fee for an internet connection that supports all your gadgets, you could end up having to manage multiple subscriptions.
However, the broadband industry says you have nothing to worry about. Comcast, for example, says that it will follow basic net neutrality principles even if the rules are revoked. “We won’t block, slow down, or discriminate against lawful content,” Comcast spokesperson Sena Fitzmaurice says. “We believe the best way to settle the regulatory and political ping pong that net neutrality has become is for Congress to pass legislation that will apply to all in the internet ecosystem.”
Net Neutrality in Malaysia
Much like Chile, mobile providers compete with one another on which applications or services are offered free of data charges. Maxis led the way with the introduction of free Twitter, and U-Mobile quickly countered with free WeChat and Kakao Talk, whilst DiGi includes unlimited access to WhatsApp in its Internet plans.
This is great for large companies like Facebook and Google as it only has more to gain. But giving free data for these services makes the playing field unbalanced as small companies, competitors and startups can’t afford to pay mobile providers to provide free access to their sites or apps.