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What is net neutrality?

In today's digital world net neutrality has become increasingly significant. As an Internet user, something that all of us should be aware of. Net neutrality is a fundamental law that several governments impose on Internet Service Providers (ISP). This ensures all data irrespective of the content is treated equally. With this, the Internet service provider will not be able to charge differently to its users based on content, platform, application or website being accessed.

With Net neutrality, an Internet service provider cannot restrict access to any website known as Internet Censorship. There are several scenarios where well-known brands have exploited the users due to lack of net neutrality. Policies around net neutrality are governed by the government within a geographical region or country. As an Internet user, it is equally important to understand how net neutrality is imbibed within the geographical region you belong.

Benefits of Net Neutrality:

While we have spoken about Net neutrality, let us understand the importance of this.

  • Content Access – This is one of the key reasons why net neutrality exists. With net neutrality, there would be no content access restrictions. This allows users to have full access to all the websites and not worry about being overcharged for accessing any specific content.

  • Transparency – With net neutrality, the Internet service provider functions becomes transparent. The complete working of the ISP is made available to the public with no hidden terms or conditions.

  • Equality over usage – Net neutrality ensures that the ISP does not give preference to one user over another.

  • Growth – This is something which helps in the growth of technology. It is a key factor which works towards better innovation. This allows every individual to get complete access to every content over the Internet. Provides ample of opportunity to do research.

  • Competition – Competition over the market improves with net neutrality. It provides a good platform for companies and e-commerce business to showcase their products and services and eventually increase their revenue.

  • Privacy – One biggest constant fear while being online is to be stalked at every point. With net neutrality, one can be assured that their privacy is not being invaded.

  • No Bandwidth throttling – Your ISP will not throttle your bandwidth based on content access. Users can practically experience the same bandwidth throughout.

  • Uniform Pricing – Net neutrality ensures you pay the same price to access any content over the Internet. You would not have to pay a premium price for a content categorized as a premium content or website by your ISP.

While there are so many benefits of having net neutrality, there are also some downsides and concerns regarding this.

Disadvantages of Net neutrality:

  • Bandwidth - A common worry with most ISPs is the sufficient provisioning of bandwidth. The bandwidth provided by the ISP would become insufficient and would only degrade the internet usage. The ISP would be under constant pressure to provide a scalable solution.

  • ROI - While ISPs invest tons of money over infrastructure, this leaves them with less scope to have a good Return on Investment. This is the biggest concern for most Internet Service Providers.

  • Additional services – Several websites such as Google have created services for users to make free calls. This in a way will hamper the business of several Telecom providers who have invested into building these networks.

  • Restriction – A common discussion is around the point whether having net neutrality is the way forward. Many believe there has to be some level of governance and restriction on this usage.

  • Contradictory Views – While ISPs vote against net neutrality, several services and websites support net neutrality. Net neutrality is one of the key reasons why Facebook, YouTube, and many such websites have gained popularity.

Conclusion:

Net neutrality has been undergoing several rounds of discussion across different countries. Chile is one of the first adopters of net neutrality. Similarly, in the United States, Federal Communications Commission has had diverse policies for net neutrality. While in principle net neutrality puts consumers and website owners in a win-win situation, one also needs to see aspects affecting other domains such as ISPs, telecom industry and many more.

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