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Net Neutrality or Network neutrality entails the policies which preserve that all web content and traffic on the internet has to be treated equally without discernment. Net neutrality can also mean an open internet connection provided by the ISPs should not discriminative or limited to any application or content accessed on the internet. All data should be charged equally without discrimination regardless of the site visited, content or platform, type of attachments or communication methods of the users (Kramer, Lukas & Christof 795). In simple terms, net neutrality assumes that internet service providers should not deliberately slow down or block users on the internet or charge more for specific content and websites visited.
A widely quoted example of a breach in line with the net neutrality principle ensued when a US internet service provider, Comcast, slowed down internet services for Netflix due to disagreement on privileged for streaming services (Goth 8). Another significant instance it the happening which occurred when Comcast internet providers secretly slowed down, Throttling, uploads from Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing applications (Reggiani & Tommaso 45). In 2015, activists in the United States pressured the FCC to implement Net Neutrality rules and regulations to keep the internet access open to all users without discrimination (Vaenelis 89). However, the issue of neutrality is still a widely debated policy and necessitating government intervention and implementation of net neutrality.
Net Neutrality has developed to be among the leading internet controversies; the paper seeks to discuss the advantages and drawbacks together with government involvement towards achieving net neutrality. Net neutrality has met numerous challenges in the US which have been extensively debated. In January 2014, FCC (Federal Communication Commission) nullified several essential provisions on net neutrality regulations; which gave ISPs control over the amount of P2P data sharing and in turn implemented pay-to-play plans (Lyons & Daniel 66). However, new FCC rules were enacted in February 2015, confirming rules of no throttling, blocking or paid prioritization (Becker, Gray, Dennis & Hal 502). Net Neutrality has since continued to be a controversial subject and requiring the government to intervene and enact appropriate net neutrality policies.
Discrimination occurs when ISPs favor or block specific information, content or websites on the internet. Net neutrality eliminates the biases on users on the internet; all users can access similar information regardless of one’s socio-economic status (Crocioni 7). For instance, ISPs could prioritize high-speed connections above education; meaning ISPs would increase premium charged of “pay-to-play” enjoying privileged access to the internet. The premium charge would benefit the rich over the poor who can not afford the increased costs. In the absence of net neutrality, ISPs would favor their private protocols over others; this kind of discriminations is achieved when ISPs encourage the use of specific networks by discriminating using data counts instead of bandwidth count (Greenstein, Shane, Martin & Tommaso 132). A relevant case was an agreement between Comcast ISP and Microsoft to allow streaming of live television events on Xbox 360 with bandwidth limits remaining constant, whereas, streaming over other apps such as Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go affected their bandwidth (Faulhaber 11).
Net neutrality prevents exploitation of companies and the general public by ISPs in the name of “fast lanes” internet connections at additional costs. The government can ensure the impartiality of the networks provided through the Federal Communication Commission’s rules and guidelines (Hart 421). The government intervenes through anti-discrimination as well as anti-blocking policies stop ISPs from prioritizing specific contents and limiting access to other websites and materials (Cheng, Hsing & Hong 60). ISPs role is availing data to the user and should not influence the use of that data. Therefore, net neutrality promotes freedom on the internet as ISPs cannot dictate or discriminate the choice of contents accessed and websites visited — furthermore, neutrality advocates for a flat playing ground for competing companies (Cheng 45).
Internet short of neutrality is not justly provided: unlike a neutral availed internet which is open and is featured with stimulated inventions and innovations through the same provision of the internet to all users. Implementation of net neutrality policies essentially means the provision of a network where ISPs do not dictate the contents, applications, and websites accessed by users. Consequently, lack of neutrality would impact the economy significantly as ISP companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T would call the shots and decide the type of information accessed on the internet. However, from another perspective, adoption of net neutrality limits ISPs and the government to fight against copyright and piracy. For instance, P2P file sharing encourages infringement of copyright laws. ISPs or the government will both be unable to block or limit contents prone to piracy.
Furthermore, the adoption of net neutrality makes it difficult for government and ISP to monitor and regulate arousing adult content. Additionally, the lack of impartiality would imply that activists would not be able to combat oppression through the media, moreover, throttling of the internet would disrupt innovations and emergence of new ideas since ISPs would only let the already existing business and companies to succeed as they can block and slow down their opponents’ websites and services.
Sponsorship of specific contents would mean ISPs will offer free internet connections; meaning individual who are not able to afford data contracts can also access the information on the internet for free. Accordingly, “pay-to-play” schemes go against the spirit of net neutrality. Nevertheless, they can motivate ISPs to improve the quality of services they offer. Extra charges levied on heavy internet users could persuade the ISPs to increase the internet bandwidth for all users (Pil, Choi & Byung-Cheol 446). Defenders of net neutrality query government interventions between ISPs and internet users, they say neutrality should not be imposed through rules and regulations but should transpire naturally.
Net Neutrality policy was passed in 2015 when the government saw the need and importance of internet access to all Americans; in association with public utility and thus the need to control it. Another concern is the public services which have plenty of snags; adoption of neutrality will overlook these problems: as the public will be paying more for services without innovations. Generally, the newly reformed policies had positive impacts on users; for instance, everybody got to gain access to the internet and thus information. Nevertheless, there were problems associated with enacting of the neutrality rule and regulations. ISP firms argued that net neutrality rule had burdened their business plans (Kourandi, Frago & Tommaso 330).
Neutrality would hurt ISPs as a business as they will not be able to fully exploit their market as a significant amount of data would be consumed without returns (Njoroge et al. 370). Neutrality comes with freedom of choice on how users use the internet; censorship would disappear since users are free to express themselves so long as they meet legal obligations. The government would also have a hard time monitoring and regulating access to contents prone to breach of copyright laws. Availing internet access to everyone makes internet connection a public utility (Quail & Christine 31).
The paper has highlighted on net neutrality principles and its significance. It has been established that the government should intervene and enact neutrality laws with the objective of eliminating discrimination and prioritization of users along with the sites and content accessed. Equality means equal access to internet and information irrespective of socioeconomic status and capabilities of users. Neutrality also promotes freedom of choice on materials and sites visited; which may be limited by ISPs. As such, without impartiality, would significantly deprive activists of an opportunity to combat oppression or the government from regulating and monitoring interesting adult contents. However, from the ISP business point of view, it restricts creativity and innovativeness. But again without the policy, these company would exploit users and new business in the marketplace. Therefore, from the discussion above, the paper deduce that net neutrality laws should not be enacted. However, the government should intervene through reforms which safeguard users from exploitation by the ISPs.
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