Network neutrality

One of the first hits, when network neutrality is searched, are websites who want to save network neutrality and present who are for and especially who are against. Network neutrality seems to be a hot topic all over the world, with important players involved like the big telecom companies on the one hand and companies like Facebook, Netflix and Mozilla Firefox on the other hand.

Network neutrality can be seen as a non-discrimination act against any website, content or application on the Internet. Internet service providers (ISP’S) are not allowed to discriminate; therefor every end user has equal access to all available information and applications, access to an open and free Internet.

In the present day the Internet is a huge part of our everyday life, it is almost impossible to imagine a world without the Internet. Almost all communication goes trough the Internet via the gathering and sharing of information, emailing, chatting or peer-to-peer file sharing. Our speech seems to have been shifted from the psychical platform to the online platform, and with that also our right to freedom of speech. This freedom could be protected by network neutrality trough the fact that ISP’s are not allowed to ‘filter’ the Internet and therefor cannot decide for the users what falls within the scope of the right.

However Comcast, a large cable company and ISP, claims that net neutrality would violate their right of freedom of speech. It means that they could block data that would not live up to their freedom of speech standards. Non-profit organization DemandProgress responded in the following way: Comcast and other opponents of network neutrality claim that under the First Amendment they can discriminate the speech of the Internet’s users.

Companies like Comcast provide access to the Internet, they provide access among users, and consequently users depend on these companies. Defenders of net neutrality argue that when there would be no network neutrality several problems would arise, with the main issue discrimination of content and the breach of freedom of speech. First ISP’s could prefer the content and applications of one business over another business. It may block the content altogether or make consumers pay to access the content. Furthermore it may slow some websites down who burden the channel capacity, websites like Netflix could be slowed down and therefor will not be able to provide proper service to its customers. There also can be noted that with the equal access to the Internet innovation was possible, no matter if the start-up was a big or a small company, everybody had access. Websites and applications like Facebook, YouTube or Flickr could start up because of the free and open Internet; no help of ISP’s was involved. The last remark can be made by drawing a parallel to the telecom market, the telephone sector, here companies are not allowed to discriminate so why should they be able to do so on the internet. Overall there can be noted that when net neutrality falls out, equal access on the receiving and sending part of speech is shut down.

On the other hand we cannot forget the arguments made by the ISP’s for a clear and balanced conclusion. Companies like Comcast invest in the Internet and in order for them to be able to continue these investment they need to make profit. When ‘heavy occupying websites’ are charged, the company would find profit there instead of passing the burden to the consumer, and therefor keep market prices low so every citizen can afford internet access. There can also be said that if the ISP’s have to keep providing the best service for all applications to comply with the net neutrality, it will be a very difficult technical issue and an expensive one. Furthermore there can be noted that not every service or application are the same, so should they be treated the same, if one needs far more capacity than the other. A final argument can be found in the fact that if the option of no network neutrality is there, that doesn’t mean that all companies will immediately discriminate among applications. If a users wants to access material that is blocked the company will most likely loose that customer to another who will provide access.

With the arguments presented above in mind I can only come to the following conclusion. In my opinion the Internet should be a free and open one, especially because nobody owns it. Sure the ISP’s provide our access to it, but the Internet itself is not their property. And sure they helped the Internet develop into its current status, but it is a common effort of users and companies. So would it not be very abnormal for private companies to dictate what can and cannot be said or published. Most of arguments of the ISP’s are also more about the economic point of view and present that they probably wouldn’t discriminate… But they don’t give any guaranty. Perhaps it is just a smart way to please the public. With no network neutrality freedom of speech on the Internet will crumble under the policy of private companies.

Source: Essay UK - http://doghouse.net/essays/information-technology/network-neutrality/


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