- 14th December, 2017
Join The Battle
By Eyram Adjaku
The internet as we know it is a vast interconnected sea of computers that hold almost the entire sum of human knowledge. A kid browsing the internet on a cheap smartphone has access to the same information as the wealthiest person. The internet does not discriminate against its consumers but remains open and equal to all. This principle is called “net neutrality".
An Internet service provider (ISP) is the company that connects you to the internet. If we are to think of the internet as a road network, your ISP builds and maintains your driveway. Net neutrality means your ISP gives you access to all lawful websites on the same terms. It wouldn't matter if you are looking up a niche blog about cooking or trying to stream a video from Youtube or Netflix. This is how the internet was designed to work: to transfer information as quickly as possible regardless of what information it is.
Tim Wu, a law professor who coined the term net neutrality in 2003, argues that the best possible internet is one where users choose what applications and sites are successful. They make this choice by visiting or not visiting these sites.
Join The Battle for Net Neutrality
The recent conversation and stance of certain regulatory institutions threaten this openness and equality. Without neutrality, a service provider could instead dictate usage terms to both users and sites. Users could be charged more to stream videos from Youtube and at the same time YouTube could be charged to make sure its videos stream as fast as possible.
There are lots of metaphors available to help visualize this. A popular one from cartoonist Michael Godwin depicts net neutrality as the principle that prevents providers from slowing traffic and charging a premium fee for other traffic on a driveway.
We are in an era where companies and large segments of the economy are driven by real-time analysis of large data. Many innovations in the data science world have come as a result of the availability and open access to data. Leaving the decision of what can be accessed and at what speed to the service providers alone introduces survival-of-the-fittest competition into innovation, while letting people who control access to the internet dictate how the competition shakes out.