The internet is known as a place where you can express yourself in any manner you see fit. Free speech is the very essence of the internet, a place where your actions cannot be moderated by anyone. When exercising your right to free speech, it is essential that your thoughts are not restricted by any agency, organization, or even individual. The internet also provides you a platform where you can access any content that you wish to access.
But what if an agency tries to curb this freedom of yours? Or what if someone acts as a gatekeeper to what you wish to access on the internet? This is where Net Neutrality comes into the picture.
The issue of protecting Net Neutrality has been at the forefront of every country’s agenda in contemporary times. Several countries have joined hands in protecting this basic principle that governs the internet. But what exactly is Net Neutrality? Why is it necessary and why should it be protected? Let’s find out.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality means that all the data on the internet is to be treated with equality. Whether it be a video of Martin Luther King’s speech about his ‘dream’ or a silly Whatsapp forward from your uncle, everything must be treated equally. No one can play the role of a gatekeeper to determine the content that we wish to access. Similar to the water connection in your house which can be used for different purposes, internet data should also be used in any manner in which an individual wishes. There should not be any discrimination on any grounds between the data flowing on the internet.
Why is Net Neutrality Important?
Net Neutrality is necessary in order to keep the internet functioning as a level playing field for everyone. Without net neutrality, the ISPs would act as a gatekeeper to the internet and lead to the formation of a monopolistic market. Start-ups won’t be able to compete, and no new Amazon or Facebook would emerge. Further, netizens can exercise their right to free speech in a judicious manner as there will be no moderation over the contents that we wish to access.
How is Net Neutrality in danger?
Various corporations and different entities are conspiring to push the principle on net neutrality in order to gain monetary benefit. Several ISPs have tied up with different corporations to allow access to only those sites which have been paid for by such corporations. One such example is of the United States where Comcast proposed two ‘lanes.’ A ‘fast lane’ and a ‘faster lane’ through which the data would flow. ‘Faster lane’ was to be used for specific sites and other sites would have to travel through the fast lane. Similarly, in India, Facebook and Airtel proposed a ‘Free Basics’ and ‘Zero Rating’ programs respectively which allowed certain apps and services to be accessed free of cost by the users. Fortunately, these services were declared illegal by the concerned authorities in these countries, which is a welcomed step.
It’s time to buckle up our belt to decide the fate of our internet. Whether we wish to keep the internet as it is or to allow a walled garden of only a few services to emerge is entirely up to us. For the development of the economy and for the protection of our right to free speech, protecting net neutrality is absolutely necessary. Countries like US and India have done a commendable job in protecting the very essence of the internet. It’s time for others to emulate the same and keep the world of internet open to everyone.