Net Neutrality is a concept in which persons/organizations have the independence to approach the content, services, applications, and devices of their choice. Net neutrality is actually open and non-discriminatory access to the Internet. “All Internet traffic should be treated uniformly” is the bottom-line idea behind Network neutrality. It gives everyone access to everything on the internet. The term ‘net neutrality’ was coined by Columbia law professor Tim Wu.
Governments and internet service providers do not discriminate on the basis of charge to consumers and citizens for certain websites and treat all data on the internet impartially.
|India’s stand on Net Neutrality
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) backed net neutrality and barred operators from allowing differential pricing for data in India. It said that no service provider will offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content or enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract with any person that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data.
Major issues in network neutrality:
Equal opportunity in data access: Internet services should be provided all over the world without any discrimination. Anyone can post or develop their own blogs or website comments. Users can search for anything and search engines will show all available matches without any discrimination.
Content discrimination: A service provider cannot change the contents of a website according to its requirements.
Commercial Use: Network neutrality governs the rules and principles that are suitable for every business owner. There are no specific boundaries for commercial websites and e-business owners.
IP Telephones: The IP telephone, which uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), allows anyone to make a call using a computer connected to the Internet. Voice chats, Skype and other chat services are the best example of VoIP. These should not be restricted.
- Access to the Internet remains an increasingly important resource to individuals as both consumers and citizens.
- As consumers, individuals gain access to digital content such as music, films, e-books, games, and any number of goods and services through e-commerce.
- As citizens, individual gain the ability to both access and create conduits for discourse, debate, and creativity.
- The wealth of information available and the variety of applications that consumers can use to communicate allow for an unprecedented freedom of expression and information.
- To access these resources, consumers rely upon Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which provide end-users access to the Internet.
- Because many ISPs are vertically integrated with owners of basic communications infrastructure, they have the technical ability to act as gatekeepers, blocking or degrading consumer’s access to certain content and applications, or limiting the types of equipment that can be attached to the network.
- Such behaviour can severely limit the usefulness of the Internet and frustrate consumer’s aims.
|Major Concerns with the absence of Net Neutrality
· Different speed lanes and the effect it will have on startups that do not have the resource to pay for faster lanes.
· Slow loading websites frustrate users and this had a negative impact on the content provider.
· Content providers which are on slower lanes will lose out to rivals who can afford to pay for the faster lanes.
· Net neutrality provides a level-playing field to content providers and startups.
· Internet service providers can discriminate against certain types of content and political opinions
· Internet service provider may offer or charge discriminatory tariff for data services on the basis of content.
· Internet service providers will have to be able to block certain websites, throttle services, censor online content and preferential treatment.
Some other concerns about without net neutrality
Decentralized architecture of the Internet: Internet service providers can discriminate against certain types of content and political opinions. It can hurt internet users and weaken variation in apps and content spaces. Discriminatory tariff for Data Services proposals can raise anti-competitive issues. Access networks, if left limitless by non-discrimination rules, have incentives to favour their own services, applications, and content and to wipe out competing services.
Discriminatory Tariff for Data Service: Without net neutrality, the Internet service provider may offer or charge discriminatory tariff for data services on the basis of content, allowing service providers to charge certain amount from content developer which can result in providers “competing” for content, by charging different fees for different content providers. This could lead to a disjunction—where some content would only be available on particular service providers.
Internet access will become expensive: Due to high data transit costs, internet service providers will be bound to hike the charge of access for consumers and consumers would be worse off. Instead, Apps that gain by advertising and other business models should be levied by the internet service providers.
Barrier on Freedom of expression, opinion and the right to information: Protecting a free Internet protects our Freedom of Speech. It is being linked to the right to freedom of expression, opinion and the right to information. The crucial opinion of a disclosed internet is that all internet resources and the means to operate on it are easily reachable to everyone. It effectively delivers the telecom operator a dumb pipe.
Impact on networks: Mandating Net Neutrality would be contrary with sound economic management of the internet. New innovations in application services can be better achieved if innovators, for example, take into account potential congestion costs of bandwidth-intensive applications.
Blocking, throttling and preferential treatment: Without net neutrality, an internet service provider (ISPs) will get new powers. They will have to be able to block certain websites, throttle services, and the able to censor online content.
Furthering the digital divide: In the absence of net neutrality,digital divide will be increased. Digital divide is a term that refers to the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology and those that don’t or have restricted access. Net neutrality is one form of regulation that protects our national community from furthering the digital divide between the ability of the poor and the rich to access information through the Internet and World Wide Web, and it ensures that the public can have equal access to the information they need to become more informed and better citizens.
Impact on startups: The ability of smaller and start-up Apps to compete with established Apps may be affected if they are unable to secure access to specific telecom operators or afford access-tiering charges particularly if a service provider with market power reaches an exclusive arrangement with an established App or where smaller Apps are unable to secure affordable access. This may deter start-ups from joining the market. Price discrimination is legitimate especially in view of externalities i.e. if a video service hogs bandwidth it ought to pay more.
While the political debate on net neutrality is on, it’s evident that consumers, small businesses and startups have the most to lose — whether they’re incurring higher fees for internet access, having the least lobbying power, or ultimately being at the mercy of ISPs and the large social and content platforms they visit every now and then.