November 7, 2014 2:09 pm
Net neutrality. You may not know what this term means but we are almost sure that, unless you live in a country where democratic rights are restricted, you take for granted what it stands for. Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) should enable access to all content and applications equally, regardless of the source, without favouring or blocking particular online services or websites. What it basically means is, that under this principle, nobody can control what information and how fast you access on the Internet.
The non-existence of net neutrality would lead to preferential treatment. Since ISPs would be able to control the flow of the Internet, they could introduce fees for companies that want their content to be reached faster. Consequently, this could prompt the same companies to charge you for faster access to their websites. Offers like “use Facebook/Youtube faster just for $4.99/month” could become a reality. Moreover, not only already existing companies or Internet users like you and me would be put under constraints, it would also make the Internet market less competitive as it would be difficult for new start-ups to compete with the already existing companies, because the newcomers most probably couldn’t afford to buy faster Internet lanes.
The reason why we’ve chosen net neutrality as our IATE term of the week is a little bit disturbing. In our days the Internet has become a major source of information, yet, there are no clear rules on net neutrality today at EU level, leaving 96% of Europeans without legal protection of their right to access the full open internet. The good news is that not that long time ago the European Parliament voted to protect net neutrality in the EU and now further measures will be debated by the new Commission.
This is more than needed, having in mind that just a week ago tens of thousands of protestors gathered in the streets in Hungary because their government wanted to pass a law according to which Hungarians would have to pay for each gigabyte of Internet data transferred. The government had to withdraw this plan, which by one of the protestors was referred to as a ”digital iron curtain”. Surprisingly, even the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has recently prepared a proposal according to which ISPs would be able to charge companies for preferential treatment if they deemed it “commercially reasonable”. Nevertheless, it might not be adopted since President Obama has repeatedly said that he is against Internet fast lanes and paid prioritisation. The american society doesn’t seem to be in favour of the paid faster lanes as well.
Even though the majority thinks that equal access to the Internet is a fundamental right, there are some people who are against net neutrality. According to them, it is not fair to charge everyone the same price as we all spend different amounts of time on the Internet. They also claim that allowing ISPs to charge more would result in speeding up the Internet and that, anyway, the Internet is already unequal.
What are your views on this issue?
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By Julija Televičiūtė
Graduate from Vilnius University, English Philology (BA)
Translation trainee at Lithuanian Unit
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