What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is the idea that a cellular, cable, or phone Internet connection should treat all websites and services the same. It prevents Internet providers from dictating the kind of content a person is able to access online. Instead, Internet providers have to treat all traffic sources equally. Even though a particular net provider might like to promote certain content over others, with net neutrality, it is not able to do so and has to provide all information, creating an even playing field among content providers large or small. Consumers are in control of what they see online, not Internet access providers. Net neutrality ensures an Open Internet. An Open Internet means consumers can go where they want, when they want without any interference.
The opposite of net neutrality is a “pay to play” approach that allows Internet providers to charge extra for a “fast lane” that bypasses other Internet traffic. For example, if Facebook pays the Internet provider to make sure that their content is displayed over their competitors content, this is the opposite of net neutrality.
Arguments FOR net neutrality
- Innovations and content displayed might be affected without it. Smaller companies would not be able to compete with larger content providers that are able to afford the high costs of displaying their content faster and over their competitors. Without this advantage, it would reduce the chances of people looking at their content. With lesser viewership and support, they might not be able to survive. This could also hinder new entrepreneurs from starting their businesses because they would be afraid of not being able to pay these extra costs to get equal coverage.
- Internet companies would have too much power over what consumers can view. They would be able to slow down certain content and display other content quickly. This dictates what consumers see over the Internet. However, consumers should be able to decide what they would like to see on the Internet rather than having to see what is chosen for them.
Arguments AGAINST net neutrality
- Better and faster service for customers. If content providers pay extra to access faster lanes, they would be able to get information to consumers quickly without any delay.
- Better network quality. With lesser regulation and increasing competition to get content companies to buy faster lanes, network providers would have an incentive to improve their network to compete for content providers. This would greatly improve the network quality.
Certain big Internet providers do not like net neutrality because they feel that it affects their revenue potential. They want to be able to pick what people see online and charge content providers accordingly to increase their revenue. For example, the top ad links displayed on Google are from advertisers who pay Google to put their content higher. Hence, Google is able to earn some revenue from these advertisers.
In May 15 2014, FCC voted to allow broadband providers to create “fast lanes.” This gives content providers, whom are willing and able to pay, faster service. It allows content providers to negotiate for preferential treatment from Internet providers. However, Internet providers would still have to provide a basic level of service for all sites.
An example of this would be Netflix paying Comcast and Verizon for direct connection to their network. This deal does not provide Netflix preferential treatment but instead, bypasses congestion at interconnection points between Internet and transit providers. Netflix started paying for interconnection when the quality of their service reached low levels. Within a week of paying Internet providers, their viewing quality increased rapidly. Netflix also said that the current weak net neutrality rules by the FCCs did not address interconnection and hence, they were able to carry out this transaction to ensure that their consumers always received optimal service.
Another example that challenges the idea of net neutrality is Facebook. Facebook has a like button but not a dislike one. It seems to be designed to be positively biased unlike other applications such as YouTube where you can rate up and down. If one does not like a post on Facebook, the only way of expressing objection is by commenting. Facebook also only shows a few comments under a post that has many comments. Consumers are required to click to view more comments. Hence, many people might not see the negative comments because only a limited number of comments are showed. This challenges the idea of a free and open Internet because people are not allowed to show their direct objection and “dislike” something someone posts. It also restricts certain information by making it slightly more difficult on the consumers, requiring them to make additional actions to view it.
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