Understanding Net Neutrality Essay
Understanding Net Neutrality The largest broadband service provider in the United States, Comcast, was recently declared by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to have violated net neutrality laws. Based on the ruling of the FCC, it was proven that the broadband giant was interfering with the traffic for Bit Torrent, a peer to peer file sharing protocol utilized to share large data files like videos (Richman, 18). Initially, Comcast denied the allegation of interference with the file sharing of their consumers. However, after a test conducted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Associated Press, it was revealed that Comcast is selectively interfering with the peer to peer file sharing of its consumers.
The company claimed that the interference was only implemented during peak hours where there is heavy traffic. Additional evidence and confrontation provided otherwise (Multinational Monitor, 7).Comcast is interfering with the file sharing of its consumers, regardless of the congestion of internet use thereby making it difficult or if not impossible to share certain files among the internet users. Comcast defended its act saying that the interference was only made to ease traffic congestion and to effectively manage the net service (Multinational Monitor, 7).
The FCC ruled that Comcast’s act of interference violates the principles of net neutrality. What the company has done is tantamount to opening mails before the letter could reach the recipient. They screen the files based on content and type and disallow the sharing thereof if it falls in their prohibited list.According to the FCC, it is illegal for Comcast to discriminate against particular internet applications. If the broadband giant desires to impose such rules to effectively manage the service they provide, then they should inform the consumers so that they could make intelligent choices (Multinational Monitor, 8). Comcast complied with the FCC order that it should revise its rules regarding managing the system during peak hours.
The company however, it filed an appeal regarding the case. Comcast avers that the FCC ruling was inappropriate and has no legal basis. It asked the FCC that it come out with specific rules on net neutrality to properly guide internet service providers (Hansell, 2008).
The Comcast case started the huge debate on net neutrality. Many have commended the FCC ruling however, there are also those who expressed their dissent on the decision. Series of bills have also been passed in Congress favoring net neutrality but no specific legal mandate has been passed to address the topic. The principle of net neutrality is a growing interest in the internet world. There are varied definitions of the term but the basic principle is that all content transmitted over a cable or a phone company’s network should be treated equally and without preference (Richmond, 2008). Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should remain neutral as to the content of the files being transmitted and not discriminate its transfer based on file type or application (Multinational Mirror, 2008). Among the advocates of net neutrality are large internet based companies such as google, amazon, ebay, Microsoft and yahoo; consumers and the civil liberties groups; internet pioneers and special interest groups such as the Amercan Library Association and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (Infoworld, 13).
These advocates believe that through the implementation of net neutrality, a free and open internet is preserved. The users are ensured that they can access any web page, add or post any content and use any web application without worrying if the ISP would allow it or not (Eudes, Divis and Bennett, 36-37) . It gives the user the power to choose what to view and what applications to use. It is the underlying principle that has sustained the internet from its conception to the present. It is also the principle that has led big information providers such as google to expand and remain in the internet scene (Google, n.pag.
).Many net neutrality advocates fear that if there is no net neutrality legislation, the option to choose will no longer be left to consumers but to the ISPs. They would be the ones who will determine what applications should be accessed and how fast or slow it should be gained. In addition, the control of ISPs of the internet processes and sharing will impose additional fees and charges in order to make the sharing of series of applications possible.
It will also give broadband providers the ability to exclude rival content, applications or portals from the network (Brito and Ellig, 2008). The internet which started as an independent and free enterprise will soon be manned by only a few people—the ISPs; if there is no net neutrality. It will also seriously affect free access to information from all over the world. Many consumers have expressed their support for net neutrality since this is their only weapon against whimsical and capricious broadband providers.
Through net neutrality, the option to choose and share information and applications will remain in the hands of the consumers. However, there are also many who air their opposition against net neutrality such as large broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon; Network equipment providers; free-market think tanks and the American Conservative Union among others (Infoworld, 13).Among the points that are being presented is the lack of power of broadband service providers to effectively manage their systems. Such providers invoke that their interference of the file application sharing is only a way of system management so that there would be no traffic congestion and the internet service of everyone would not be undermined (Singer 2007). Net neutrality could lead to the clogging of internet connections. In addition, net neutrality dissenters also point out that net neutrality would lead to unfair competition in the broadband market.
In illustration, some companies, such as Sony, will pay broadband service providers so that their games can be accessed by their consumers at a faster rate and at an uninterrupted pace. If net neutrality legislation is imposed, broadband service providers will be compelled to make the same level of speed available to other applications which are not paying the same extra fees. As a result thereof, those who are paying to avail the service will stop since they can gain access to it without paying. The scenario could in turn force the broad band companies to stop providing the service entirely or make available only to those who need it at a costly price thereby causing unfair market trends (Singer, 40). There are also claims that the internet has never been neutral. Contrary to the belief of many, there are various applications that screens and prohibits the access of certain files. Among those devices that interfere with the free flow of information are firewalls, end-to-end service, inter-domain routing and proxies.
These applications interfere with the flow of information in a sense that they either make information easily available or prohibit the access to certain sites or information (Crowcroft 51-52). The internet was not designed to be neutral but to be practical (Zhu, 644). Another contention of net neutrality oppositors is the violation of the constitutional right to freedom of speech. According to May (n.pag.), ISPs have freedom of speech just like newspapers, magazines and movie producers. They should not be compelled to utter something which they do not adhere to, thus, they should be given the right to screen and allow only the files and documents that would fall within their policies and beliefs.
In addition, the lack of power to screen messages also allows the sharing of illegal materials such as copyrighted materials. If ISPs are given the option to discriminate then there is a greater chance that the illegal proliferation of copyrighted documents will be curbed. The internet is an avenue of freedom where people from all walks of life and from all parts of the world could present their views, share information and applications independently. There are no restrictions as to its operation and it is not controlled by any body or corporation. This is the reason why ISPs should remain neutral in providing access to the internet. Users should be allowed to share profiles or applications freely regardless of the size or file type. They should also be given privacy to the contents that they share. Broadband service providers should not be given the option to interfere with the file type and contents that are being shared.
Everyone is entitled to the privacy of the communications that they share to other people. If there is no rule regarding net neutrality, the internet will be left at the control of only a few people or corporations. File sharing will also be more difficult if not, impossible to attain. Files and information which are readily available on the internet will no longer be possible as these might be reserved by certain people.
Excessive fees to attain faster sharing of files under a specific application might also be imposed at the burden of consumers. The internet was created in order to foster free sharing of information. It was created for the people and not only for a certain group of people thus, it should be kept that way. The role of ISPs is merely to provide internet access and not to control everything that happens in it. They may have a point is saying that the interference is mainly for net efficiency and management. However, this contention also spells a hidden agenda to gain greater control of file and applications sharing as well take over of the internet. Recently, Comcast has imposed a download quota for its costumers every month.
This rule is totally unfair since the consumer is limited only to a number of downloads considering that he paid sufficiently to gain the service. It is tantamount to an unjust enrichment on the part of Comcast. They are not giving due credit to the worth of the consumers’ money. In addition this practice is also inconvenient especially for those people who need to download heavy files or series of files from the internet. Students for instance as well as researchers and investigative journalists cannot have the leeway to gain as much information as they desire given this limitation. It will seriously hurt the education sector as well as the companies engaged in research. Aside from this, Weinstein (128) also said that a non-neutral would result to a death knell for the future of competitive entrepreneurs in the internet.
The latter would have limited avenue to introduce new technologies and innovation in file applications. Net neutrality is essential in the introduction of new technology because traffic prioritization may deny access to the internet completely (Zhu, 636). The lack of specific net neutrality legislation places serious threat to the enjoyment of the many conveniences that the internet has offered. If the ISPs are given the freedom to interfere with file sharing, there are two possibilities that could happen. Either the people go back to the basics such as doing manual research in the library, going from one place to another to seek information or views or the public be forced to pay high amount of internet access fees just to obtain the files that are needed.
No consumer would want either possibility to happen thus, internet independence should be maintained.WorksCitedBrito, J. and Ellig, J. “Considering Net Neutrality.” Regulation. (2007): 6-7.Eudes,J., Civis, K.
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