One of the reasons we — the consumers or the end-users of the internet — are relatively unaware of the meaning of Net Neutrality (NN) is that, we have always had it good and took NN for granted. We were not aware of internet being any other way.
But now the moment has come when you have to necessarily know the meaning of NN. Because you have the rights to know what information you have access to and what information you are deprived off as an information consumer. Because we risk somebody else altering what we experience on the internet. The current attempts to fiddle with NN — if successful — will be another demonstration of American capitalism.
So let’s get on — what is Net Neutrality (NN)?
NN simply means the contents on the WWW are delivered to the end-user by a straight-forward, unfiltered, unprioritized, unbiased transaction from the content provider to the user. There is nobody altering the contents delivered to you. For example, if we both are from the same geographical area, and google a search term, we will (and should) get the same results. And that is a simplistic definition of NN.
Who can take NN away from the end-user?
There are two key players — the content provider and the internet provider. Take search for example. In my case, Google would be the content provider and Comcast will be the internet provider. Lack of NN, these two parties can decide what I will see on my computer, based on my profiling. My profiling could be based on a number of factors, but in this context mainly based on how much I pay.
What would it mean to not have NN?
Think of China. Think of many of the pan-Islamic countries. They don’t have NN. But their neutrality is defined based on government policies. And at least, all residents of the country have access to same content. But in American context, it is purely commercial and is likely to give different internet experience to different people.
Will this affect countries other than USA?
I think it will. If they get away with NN, content providers (a vast majority of who are in the US) are likely to charge tiered access rates to international internet providers also. This means, whether you are in Bangalore or Baltimore or Budapest, this will likely affect you in some way.
Can we do something about it?
Though the internet is certainly larger than any number of corporations, the steering wheels are in the hands of few large corporates. Besides, NN is largely a gentlemen’s agreement and laws supporting NN are weak and manipulatable.
Are reasons why the NN killers might be right?
Content providers and internet providers cite many reasons — such as improving quality of content, prevent identity theft and internet related attacks etc…, but I think we are risking by putting control into the hands of few people.
Why is this news now?
As you may have read, Google and Verizon are working on clearing their way to a new business model, which would effectively betray NN. This is a developing news and you may see the stories are constantly evolving.
If you can think of good reasons to abolish NN or have ideas on how to prevent the efforts to kill NN, please comment.
Originally published at www.sastwingees.org on August 6, 2010.