We often assume that all the information on the internet is equally accessible. It’s not quite as simple as that but this ideal is the basis of net neutrality. It’s been an issue in the US for years, but it actually affects people all over the world.
Here’s the problem: Without net neutrality, our Internet Service Provider or ISP could influence what you see and how quickly you see it.
In order for you to watch YouTube, browse Facebook or read the news, you need an ISP to connect you to that content. Net neutrality demands that ISPs should treat all web traffic the same.
Let’s think about that in terms of real traffic. Let’s say the ISPs are roads and websites are vehicles on this road. The ISP is supposed to let all vehicles use this road equally. This means that a big company’s car cannot be given the right to go faster than a small company’s car. Remember, the speed limit is the same for all cars.
Now imagine that the ISP road is broken into fast and slow lanes. The fast lanes are given only to big companies and the slow lanes are given to small companies. Does this sound unfair? Now imagine what happens if some companies are completely denied access to this road, based on the decision of an ISP.
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Basically, without net neutrality, the ISP road will stop treating all vehicles the same.
What does this mean for you? Well, without net neutrality, you might find some services slowing down, unless your favourite companies pay more to the ISP. Did you know that something so unfair like this has happened before?
In 2014, before net neutrality regulations were placed in the US. The customers of an ISP named Comcast saw Netflix slowing down significantly. Guess how Netflix solved this problem. It paid Comcast and money to stream its videos faster!
If a video streaming website has to pay more money to get streamed better, this means you will end up paying a higher price for that streaming service.
More implications of no net neutrality? Even ISPs can charge a premium from their customers to stream video services faster. If companies are forced to pay for the ‘fast lane, the price increase might be passed on to the consumer, that means you could end up paying more to browse your favourite sites.
You might even notice a decrease in the quality of content, like videos be of lower resolution.
While larger companies can afford to pay up for better service delivery, smaller companies may not be able to keep up. Less competition means lesser pressure to improve products and services. If smaller companies close down due to the absence of net neutrality, the consumer might have a lesser choice.
It’s not only about the cost. ISPs could choose to block some sites completely from reaching you. They could come up with content such as video streaming services of their own, and block competitors’ content!
The debate on net neutrality is now raging in the US, and it might soon impact other countries. If ISPs win this debate, then the internet will no longer be as open and free as today. So, are you in favour of net neutrality?
Comment below to let us know.