Net Neutrality: A Fundamental Right in the Digital Era
Internet is built around the idea of openness, it allows people to connect and exchange information freely. Net neutrality, as you might know, is a term used to explain the behavior of Internet service providers (ISPs) as concerns the way that they deliver data to their users. Internet Service Providers (ISP) will provide their customers with unhindered and equal access to all lawful web spaces and services available on the internet, up to the limit of data usage plan subscribed by the net user, without giving any priority to any of the websites over the others. The Service Providers must behave like a utility in that they could not show special preference to any particular websites or streams of communication for any reason.
The controversy on Net Neutrality arose when the ISP’s put forward a proposal that could result in the removal of “Net Neutrality” and to allowing the ISP to block apps and websites on their wish and restrict their availability as a paid service to the customers.
For getting access into an internet network you need the infrastructure of an Internet service provider (ISP), the ISP would have spent a lot of money to build this infrastructure, replacing the old telephone wires with optical fiber made us connect with the high speed networks. This process of building the infrastructure is quite expensive and it involves a lot much of manpower and ground level problems. Telecom operators pay huge amount of money to the government based on the size and the bandwidth of the spectrum bought by them to obtain license to provide the channel for various networks and applications. The income for the Service provider is mainly the money paid by the consumers for data usage whether it could be individuals or enterprises.
The ISP’s are aiming at a big source of income eying the applications that are being used by majority customers on daily basis, especially the Internet telephony services such as Viber, Whatsapp, Telegram, Skype etc and also other most commonly used apps such as ecommerce, social media applications etc. By making the customers pay for using their most favorite apps, enable them to extort more money from the consumers and businesses.
The revenue being collected by the telecom operators has declined phenomenally as the traffic online has shifted to Google, Yahoo, MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia.org etc., for which the service providers has no control or income, it is in this scenario that the ISP’s are demanding net neutrality should be removed.
Why Net Neutrality is Important
Net neutrality is very important in today’s world as everything that connects with us is online and a restriction on it is just like denying a basic right. Web users must be free to connect to whatever website or service they want. ISPs should not bother with what kind of content is flowing from their servers. It’s in fact the neutrality which has allowed the internet to grow into a truly global network and reduce the world to a global village. It is the right of the internet users to have an equal and unrestricted access to all lawful online spaces. But more importantly, it is the net neutrality that enables a level playing field on the internet, you cannot go with a preferential treatment for any particular website in terms of speeding up its access, or making some sites free over others.
Consequences of Removal of Net Neutrality
If there is no net neutrality, ISPs will have the command over internet traffic so that they can obtain an extra benefit from it. For example, the service provider can make a deal with a particular company to offer their website at a better bandwidth than their competitor website thereby resulting in a much smoother web experience for the first website.
Without net neutrality, the whole concept of internet service will be taken to a different level and shape. The service providers will come up with new plans and packages that limit our access to Internet. For example, if you subscribe a particular package you will only be able to access websites from a particular region, for accessing websites from other region you will have to add a different subscription.
Lack of net neutrality will also result in the lack of level ground for various companies to grow in a market. Bigger companies will be able to pay more to make access to their websites faster while a startup that wants to create a different and better solution may not be able to do that and thereby curbing their very chance of growth and existence.
The right of the citizens to get the right information online will be at stake if there is no net neutrality, the service provider can decide what content or websites a user must see. For example, if you are looking for an online purchase and when you search for a product, the service provider can make only Amazon to index in your google search while a different website like Flipkart may have got a better deal for the product that you are looking for.
Net neutrality must be considered as a gentlemen’s agreement. Internet, being an integral part of our daily life and being unavoidable, ISPs across the world are trying to take command over the shape and control of the internet. Steps are to be taken to make internet access available to more unreached places and not to restrict it. It is a necessity to keep our internet neutral and bias free thereby valuing the rights of the consumers. There should never be a case of uneven service, so everyone can stream their favorite websites more or less at the same speeds. Let internet be a neutral space where everybody has equal rights and freedom thereby creating a better informed digital world!