What is Net Neutrality? Understanding its Importance
With the announcement that Trump’s FCC has made regarding net neutrality, there has been a lot of uproar on the internet lately regarding net neutrality. However, not a lot of people are completely familiar with this term.
What really is net neutrality and why is it so important for us?
Back in 2015, millions of activists had pressured the FCC, Federal Communications Commission, to adopt the historic rules of net neutrality which would keep the internet open and free. As a result, users would have the freedom of accessing and sharing information of their choice without any interference.
However, Ajit Pai, Trump’s FCC chairman wishes to get rid of net neutrality.
Understanding Net Neutrality
Net neutrality has been present for a long time now and it is the way internet functioned for all these years. It is a basic principle which prohibits different internet service providers such as Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T from blocking, slowing down, or speeding up any websites, applications, and content that you wish to use.
Net neutrality also means that all of the current internet service providers should treat all data present on the internet in the same manner. There shouldn’t be any discrimination or they shouldn’t charge differently by the method of equipment, user, application, platform, website, and content.
Due to net neutrality, internet service providers can’t intentionally block or charge money for particular online content or websites.
What will happen without Net Neutrality?
Without net neutrality, the internet will no longer stay an open network where everyone is entitled to the freedom of expression. Until now, the internet has been an open platform which paves a path for innovation and provides a place for all those that had been shunned and shut out historically. In contrast, without net neutrality, the internet will just be a closed-down network where phone and cable companies will have the power of deciding which applications, content, and websites will succeed.
This change will lead to a huge economic and social impact. The power of expression will end up in the hands of just a few companies including Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T. They will get to decide who will be heard and who will be tossed out. Similarly, this handful of companies will be able to block content and websites that don’t match their opinions as well as those applications that they consider as competitors to their offerings.
Moreover, the consequences of no net neutrality will be highly devastating for those marginalized communities that are misrepresented or served badly by the different media outlets. Religious minorities, people of colour, indigenous people, and the LGBTQIA+ community present in America greatly depends on open internet for accessing and organizing educational and economic opportunities, as well as for fighting against systemic discrimination.
It is safe to say that without net neutrality, activists would have no means of fighting oppression. There will be no movements for equal rights that can find support online. Similarly, there would hardly be any exposure being given to disruptive technology or a lifesaving innovation with internet service providers having control over what’s shown to their customers on the internet.
There is another grave problem that comes with no net neutrality; higher prices. Without net neutrality, you would have to pay more for watching your favourite TV shows on platforms like Hulu or Netflix. Likewise, you’ll have to pay more to use social media and for playing games.
As a result, people that can afford the increase in prices will enjoy greater speeds while lower-income browsers will face limitations, not only in terms of entertainment but also in terms of the information they can access.
Furthermore, with the reversal of net neutrality, phone and cable companies can split the internet into slow lanes and fast lanes. The biggest drawback of having no net neutrality is the fact that internet service providers can block out all those political opinions that they don’t agree with. Thus, it could be said that without net neutrality, the liberty and freedom of expression of people would be taken away.
The Importance of Net Neutrality for Businesses
Net neutrality is particularly important for entrepreneurs, startups, and small business owners that rely heavily on the open internet to reach customers, launch their businesses, advertise their services and products, and create markets.
Without it, entrepreneurs and small businesses won’t be able to thrive online at all. Similarly, net neutrality is important for fostering innovation, competition, and job growth, all of which is only possible with an ‘open’ internet.
Due to not having net neutrality, entry barriers are also lowered as the internet’s level and fair playing field is preserved. The internet, at this point, is an open marketplace and a specific company shouldn’t be able to interfere with it. However, since internet service providers are the gatekeepers of the internet, they would take full advantage of the reversal of net neutrality and will make as much profit from it as possible.
While there’s a lot of public outcry regarding net neutrality, we’ll have to wait to see how the FCC will vote on Ajit Pai’s net neutrality killing plan in mid-December.