A terribly boring sounding name, Net Neutrality is key to how we use the internet today. It is the reason why the internet has grown as much as it has and continues to grow, constantly opening up newer possibilities and a ‘smarter’ future.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality in a nutshell means that all websites, content, services and data on the internet are equally accessible to everyone at the same speed and for the same price.
Telecom companies, who are also internet service providers, have the means to control the access of content and services on the Internet. They can control what you access on the internet, how much of it you can access, how fast you can access it and how much you pay to get the access to websites and content on the internet.
The fact that they don’t, is due to the Net Neutrality laws that have governed the internet.
Why they do not want Net Neutrality?
The argument of the internet service providers is that they only make money by providing data. While internet services such as social media sites, e-commerce portals, clubbed under the term OTT (Over-the-Top) services use the infrastructure provided by the ISPs to reach their customers and offer them products/services that not only make money but in some cases also compete with the traditional calling service provided by ISPs.
Furthermore, the ISPs contend since they provide the service and incur the cost of setting up the infrastructure, they should be allowed to earn back the money they’ve invested by getting the power to charge extra for popular services or charge nothing for websites and apps they have inked deals with.
The internet started out as an open platform. It was the internet’s openness that led to its meteoric growth giving us services and products that we take for granted these days. Had it not been for Net Neutrality, the internet would not have achieved this scale.
For all the growth it has witnessed in the last decade, the internet still has the potential to grow more, a lot more. Bringing in laws that would break-up this constantly evolving ecosystem would limit its full potential.
Furthermore, the ISPs argument, that they don’t make any money, simply does not hold water. Their demand is comparable to a power utility demanding more money from you for using LED lamps on the ground that LED lights use up very little power, thus reducing your demand for power.
Lastly, Net Neutrality is about democracy. By giving ISPs the power to control over what you access on the internet, charge extra for certain services while giving others for free, is at its core undemocratic. The move will prevent smaller firms and start-ups to compete with established business and companies and will prove to be a death knell to the rich entrepreneurial spirit of our country. Moreover, the ubiquitous access to information that the internet has provided is potentially under threat with the removal of Net Neutrality norms. We are the largest democracy in the world with the second largest base of internet users. Not having Net Neutrality might turn the internet from a utility to a luxury.