What is net neutrality?
If you’ve been paying even a little bit of attention to the news recently, you have probably heard the term net neutrality, and might even know that there is a big debate going on about it across the world, and especially in the United States of America.
Net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers (ISP) must not favour any websites and instead provide equal access to all content.
Is Net neutrality a good thing?
Quite simply, for the vast majority of people, yes it is.
You see, without net neutrality CEOs of ISP companies would be free to slow down internet speeds, redirect traffic, block access to certain sites, and pretty much any other thing they decide to do in order to make money.
They could even make sure that most traffic is sent on super fast bandwidth to big companies’ websites instead of smaller, up and coming businesses who would have much slower connectivity, or even make you pay a premium for getting full access to content like many other subscription services. Imagine having to pay for your Netflix subscription and then having to pay your internet service provider a premium on top just to get the speeds you need to stream the videos properly and you can do that with cloud services!
Another that could happen is that the ISP makes a deal with sites like Netflix and charges them for faster connectivity and then that cost is put onto you in the way of higher subscription fees by Netflix with an android box. Either way, it is you, the consumer who will be getting the sore end while the CEOs get richer.
Another even more dangerous side to not having net neutrality is the very real possibility of it affecting politics. Let’s take an election for example, supposing a certain ISP is paid a lot of money by (or has connections to) a candidate or political party to restrict or block access to their oppositions content, making things even more in favour of the rich and powerful than ever before.
Then there is the possibility of the government telling providers to block independent news sites or illegal sharing sites like pirate bay and other such content that shows them in a bad light, or hides something that they don’t want the public to know, so next time you question who has the best 4g coverage for youtube mp3 downloads, consider that.
There are a few arguments in favour of abolishing net neutrality. One in particular that caught my eye recently was someone arguing that just like we don’t force restaurants to serve all possible dishes, or book stores to stock every book in existence, ISPs shouldn’t have to provide equal access to all content.
He argues that sites like mainstream news organisations and kids TV shows should not have to share bandwidth with adult content, and that if people want access to that sort of thing, they should expect to pay a premium for it.
While I can see where this person is coming from, and I personally wouldn’t care if people had to pay extra to access adult content online, I feel it would only be a matter of time before internet service providers start doing the same thing with less ‘taboo’ content and eventually lead into much more control over what we get to see and this is why I think net neutrality is a good thing and we should fight to keep it in place.