With Net Neutrality being among the trending GK Topics for Group Discussions and Personal Interview, in this article we bring to you all the important aspects about Net Neutrality that you should be knowing. Let us get on to Group Discussion on Net Neutrality.
Group Discussion on Net Neutrality
Debate on Net Neutrality first came into existence in 2014, when telecom carrier Bharti Airtel decided to charge users extra for the use of applications with which they can make free calls over the Internet via Skype and Viber. And this move of Airtel was soon followed by Facebook’s much talked about initiative Internet.org, which was intended to provide free and basic services to those who are unconnected with Internet, in collaboration with Reliance Communications.
Meaning of Net Neutrality
In its most basic form and literal meaning, Net Neutrality is the principle that all traffic on the Internet must be treated equally by Internet service providers. Those advocating Net neutrality believe all bits of data are equal, and, therefore, should not be discriminated on the basis of content, site or user. This has largely been the default mode since Internet started.
Net Neutrality is a Global Issue
The Federal Communications Commission recently supported strong Net neutrality rules. This is to ensure Internet service providers neither block, throttle traffic nor give access priority for money.
Europe is trying to correct a 2013 proposal for Net neutrality, in which privileged access was allowed to ‘specialized services.’ This was vague and threatened Net neutrality. Chile last year banned zero-rated schemes, those where access to social media is given free to telecom subscribers.
Benefits of Net Neutrality
- No Restrictions: Currently, there are no restrictions on what parts of the Internet that people can access, except for what local governments decide. For example, there are no restrictions or preferences over emailing, file sharing, instant messaging (IM), Voice over IP (VoIP), Video Conferencing, Podcasts, blogs, RSS feeds, USENET, etc.
- No Throttling: Currently, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can not change the download or upload transfer rates depending on what people are accessing.
- No Censorship: There are no restrictions on what or how much anyone can upload or download besides connection rates.
- Capitalism: Net Neutrality promotes a level playing field for competing companies, and allows start-ups easier access to new potential customers. Net Neutrality is equated to a free market.
- Freedom of Speech and Expression: An advantage of net neutrality is preserving the freedom of expression and the freedom of speech. If a site has material that a person finds offensive then that person is free to not look at that site. Likewise, any group is free to express any level of distasteful outrage against another group.
But what are the associated Disadvantages of Net Neutrality?
- Restrictions/Censorship: ISPs, in addition to governments, can decide what parts of the Internet that people can access and what parts are blocked. For instance, ISPs could block peer to peer file transfers. Additionally, ISPs could censor criticism against themselves, other companies, or politicians that they favor.
- Anti-Competition: Similar to the previous con, ISPs could block or prevent access to their competitors products, services, or web pages. Thus have restrictions against competition.
- Throttling: ISPs can decide what types of services have prefer transfer rates. For instance, Google’s Gmail could be fast why their competitors Microsoft’s Hotmail could be slower, depending on how much both companies pay the Internet Service Providers. Another common example would be high data transfers, such as peer to peer file transfers, could have slow rates than regular shorter data transfer, such as email.
- Money: ISPs could charge more money for more access to the Internet. ISPs believe that heavier users of the Internet should pay more. This extra money could be used to increase the bandwidth of the Internet for everyone and drive prices down. However, ISPs are already extremely profits and they can just as easily increase prices for everyone. Keep in mind, that Internet connection prices should be decreases why bandwidth increases. However in many parts of the world, this is not the case.
- Monitoring: There is already a lot of monitoring on the Internet, however without Net Neutrality, ISPs could literally monitor everything that their customers do on the Internet and sell or use that information as they choose.
- Increasing Governmental Influence: One of the more challenging and telling arguments for net neutrality is that phone companies and ISPs have a much greater influence on the Federal Government than individuals. This influence is primarily made manifest in the money large companies spend on lobbying the FCC and the campaign contributions these companies make to politicians that are on the committees that make the decisions about net neutrality.
And because of the above, there is a Need to Regulate Internet – Don’t you Agree?
The regulatory need arises due to the fact that the telecom companies do not like the way the apps are riding on their networks for free. The companies complain that voice-calling and messaging apps are reducing their business. And Telecom service Providers also said that they have to invest billions in getting access to spectrum and build networks as also adhere to regulations, while apps are freely available on their network.
TRAI has ruled in favour of Net Neutrality
TRAI has ordered the barring of differential pricing or “zero rating” of data services on the basis of content, route or application with immediate effect. Thus the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has settled the net neutrality debate in Favour of the principle of equality.
Globally, this decision of TRAI is being seen as the most important victory for the people in the tech space in the last 20 years. And with this, India has joined a select few countries that have protected net neutrality and barred zero-rating services.
More Important is that this provides for access to Real Internet Services rather than some internet services adhering to some specific network.