Net neutrality: The battle for survival
Since 2015, many people have benefited from the net neutrality rules. The rules stipulate that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) treat all data – shows, websites, emails, and the rest – equally. The implication is that people have equal access to all forms of data without being denied access to data for whatever reason.
Wikipedia, the popular online source of information has this to say about net neutrality: “Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments regulating most of the Internet must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.”
The implication is that we all have access to tons of information over the net and are not subjected to any form of discrimination on any basis. Regardless of your financial, academic, social, or religious status, you share the same information with others equally without being given preferential treatment or being denied your right to easy access to such valuable information on the Internet. You are not worried whether a website you want to source information from is authorized to allow you access to the information or not. You are less concerned whether the website will be slow because you don’t meet some requirements or not. Net neutrality is the way the Internet has been working: free access to any information by anyone who is interested in such information without any restriction.
Sadly, this does not go well with some organizations and companies. They are not happy about the rule that gives everyone equal access to the Internet. They are working behind the scenes to scuttle the efforts of the pro-net neutrality group. A couple of these anti-net neutrality group have made several attempts at undermining the benefits of net neutrality and deny people free access to whatever information they need on the Internet. Let me cite some worrisome and unsettling examples:
- Comcast, an Internet Service Provide secretly slowed down uploads from peer-to-peer application in a gross violation of the principles of net neutrality by using forged packets to carry out that harmful act. It wasn’t until the intervention of the FCC that the company deemed it fit to stop it.
- In 2004, the Madison River Communications company received a fine of $15,000 by FCC for not giving users unrestricted access to a company that was rivaling their services, Vonage.
- Some years ago, AT & T was also caught in the act of limiting customer’s access to their rival, Face Time. The company ensured that it was only the subscribers to AT & T shared data plan that were given access to use the Face Time application. This was a total violation of the net neutrality principle.
- Ironically, the same FCC is at the forefront of a new struggle to do away with net neutrality. In recent weeks, Verizon has made some moves to ensure the complete scrapping of any law in support of the principle in the United States.
In April 2017, the company approached the FCC with its proposal that the FCC should take a stand against any state laws in support of broadband privacy and network neutrality. The chairman of FCC, Ajit Varadaraj Pai was approached to use his office to see the eradication of the net neutrality principle. If this proposal is accepted and implemented by the FCC, net neutrality will become history and individuals will have access to the Internet if they meet some specific requirements. Organizations like Verizon can slow down the speed of a website or speed it up according their discretion.
That will greatly undermine the freedom of usage that we all enjoy when using the Internet. Prior to that, the company was found guilty of slowing down videos played on YouTube and Netflix because they felt those companies were their rivals.
If this new move by Verizon and FCC succeeds, it will have a negative impact on Internet users. It simply means that you and I no longer have access to the Internet whenever we want. Verizon and its accomplices such as AT & T, and Comcast may decide that you don’t deserve to use a particular service because it is run by their rivals.
As a student, you may no longer be qualified to use your favorite website for your school assignments. You have to make do with what the powers that be makes available for you.
Life without net neutrality can’t be fun. We will all be taken back to the 1990s when the Internet was the exclusive property of some powerful influencers. We will always be at the mercy of Comcast and co as they become the ultimate decider of what you have access to. That will have disastrous consequences on website users.
The negative impact of the scrapping of net neutrality is summarized by Safe the Internet. The online source said: “Without Net Neutrality, cable and phone companies could carve the internet into fast and slow lanes. An ISP could slow down its competitors’ content or block political opinions it disagreed with. ISPs could charge extra fees to the few content companies that could afford to pay for preferential treatment — relegating everyone else to a slower tier of service. This would destroy the open internet.” The website went on to answer these simple but powerful questions that expose the danger in eliminating net neutrality: “Without Net Neutrality, how would activists be able to fight oppression? What would happen to social movements like the Movement for Black Lives? How would the next disruptive technology, business or company emerge if internet service providers only let incumbents succeed?”
Just imagine a world without net neutrality. Without it, access to the internet will be for the highest bidder where some few companies will be empowered to dictate who has access to what information and who don’t. That will defeat the essence of the Internet.