The internet is today, one of the few level playing fields still available to companies. It allows startups to compete with established players without any partiality as all data is equal in the digital space. Net Neutrality ensures that all data present on the internet is treated equally, not discriminating or charging deferentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. Put simply, Internet providers cannot charge more for data from Youtube and less for Netflix.
Net Neutrality is an important component of an open internet, wherein companies can conduct their businesses without third-party interference. Net Neutrality is the digital equivalent to freedom of speech.
The petition to remove Net Neutrality has been pushed by global telecom giants such as Verizon and AT&T. The Telecom companies argue that firms such as Youtube and Google earn tremendous profits utilizing their architecture and they should receive a share. Here in India, we also saw recently a petition by Vodafone against Net Neutrality. The Telecom providers say that upon receiving a share of the profit they will improve the transmission speed of the companies. To do so, ISP’s want to charge the users a premium to access certain web pages and applications.
The internet is currently a forum for innovation and free expression of our thoughts and idea’s. Without Net Neutrality, ISP’s can devise plans to charge users more for access and services, making it harder to communicate and easier for companies to censor speech. The internet will start resembling cable television, where control is exerted on content. Without Net Neutrality, ISPs would be able to block content and speech they don’t like, reject apps that compete with their own offerings, and prioritize Web traffic.
Net Neutrality allows startups to compete with firms that have more resources using just their idea’s. It allowed Facebook to compete and eventually replace Myspace. In the absence of Net neutrality, ISP’s could have charged the users to access data from these sites and Facebook then being a startup may not have handled the added financial stress.
In the absence of Net Neutrality, ISP’s can reserve the fastest loading speeds to the highest bidders and stick everyone else to slowest loading speeds. This would create a hostile environment for startups and firms which lack resources, to promote fair competition and create a conducive environment for startups to flourish, it is paramount that Net Neutrality is protected.
To prevent the internet from becoming a tool for corporate speech or censorship and to protect the sanctity of fair competition, Net neutrality is required. Open, affordable and fast communications networks are essential to our individual, economic and political futures.
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