Concerns over the legislative framework surrounding net neutrality have been at the forefront in recent years.
With each passing day, more and more people are worried about the role that government agencies have to play in regards to the control of what goes on the internet.
Many fear that a post-net neutrality world would bear a striking similarity to the Orwellian dystopian land of Oceania, where the flow of information is perversely monitored and corrupted.
However, to protect net neutrality, which ultimately means to protect the freedom of speech, internet users need to know what net neutrality is and what it stands for.
What is Net Neutrality?
To understand how net neutrality works, you need to imagine a six-lane highway, filled to the brim with traffic.
All of the lanes lead to different restaurants, albeit one of these restaurants is far more accomplished than the rest.
After a robust decision-making session, you realize that you want to visit the lesser developed eatery for a change, however, after switching lanes, you conclude that this lane is in a terrible condition, with broken roads and infrastructure, in contrast to the well-made path you were just on.
This is precisely what a world without any net neutrality would look like.
Net Neutrality, in essence, is the principle that Internet Service Providers or ISPs have to provide the content on the Internet without blocking or promoting anything.
Under net neutrality, users will have access to all sorts of content, at the same speed and conditions, without ISPs restricting certain content for whatever reason.
Under the precedent set by net neutrality, whether you log into your Netflix account or a website that was just created, your ISP has no choice but to treat them equally.
Why does Net Neutrality matter?
Up until now, you have just faintly familiarized yourself with the concept of net neutrality, however, to get into the recent loop of events, you need to know about why net neutrality matters as well.
Mentioned below are some reasons which identify the value of net neutrality:
Without net neutrality, ISPs reign supreme
To understand the motive behind this, you should be aware that for many people the internet is just another marketplace.
This is especially true for ISPs, who think of data as just another commodity from which to earn a profit.
Without the principle of net neutrality governing them, ISPs can choose to provide a more excellent service to apps and websites who pay the extra money, to boost up the growth of their content.
An example of the same thing can be seen taking place in the Philippines. There mobile data users are allotted certain services, according to the data plan they subscribe to.
ISPs could potentially block other websites
Although it does sound like a bit of a stretch. Without net neutrality, well-renowned services, and websites could affect the growth of less known sites.
Massive tech giants could easily stomp out any competition that crosses their path. If it weren’t for net neutrality. We would all still have been using Bing instead of Facebook. It is because Facebook would have never been given a fair playing field.
ISPs could alter the election results:
If a particular candidate has paid an ISP. The ISP would then make sure that the election campaign of that individual candidate receives the most internet traffic. It would try to demote the campaigns of other more capable candidates.
What laws have been implemented for Net Neutrality?
Fortunately for internet users, there are no net neutrality laws in the US, as of now.
However, some pivotal changes have taken place to alter the context in which we talk about net neutrality now. Some of these changes include:
- Under the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission had to ensure that all ISPs were following the principles of net neutrality.
- However, under the Trump administration, Ajit Pai, the chairperson of the FCC, has headed a movement, to repeal the laws put in place by the Obama administration.
- In a massive turn of events, however, on April 10, 2019, Congress passed a bill called ‘Save the Internet,’ which sets to restore net neutrality.
What the ‘Save the Internet’ bill stands for?
As mentioned above, to ISPs and massive technological corporations, the internet is just another commodity to sell to its users.
However, to advocates of free speech, the internet symbolizes something much more than that.
The internet is a gigantic platform. Perhaps the only platform in the world where you don’t need executives or any other middle man to voice your opinion.
The passing of the ‘Save the Internet’ bills signifies the importance that free speech still holds to many people, as well as with this proposed law. Internet users can be free from speed throttling, content blocking, and other unfair practices of ISPs.
Well, what’s next?
Although for the moment it may seem like the passing of ‘Save the Internet’ bill is a decisive victory. But we can’t be too carefree now.
The least we can do to ensure that net neutrality is protected for all countries is to stay in the know-how of things and to know our rights as well.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental right. No one- including ISPs, government agencies or hackers, have the right to deprive us of it.