There was a time when net neutrality was one of the most talked-about topics on the Internet. It is also known as network neutrality, internet neutrality, or net equality. The principle states that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and governments should treat all data on the internet equally. It is a topic that divides opinion. Several consumer advocates, human rights organisations (such as Article 19), online companies, and some technology companies are advocates of net neutrality. On the other hand, ISPs and telecom equipment manufacturers, suggest that net neutrality requirements would reduce their incentive to build out the internet. This reduces competition in the marketplace and may raise the operating costs which they would have to pass down to their users.
The concept has its pros and cons from a neutral perspective. Net neutrality would provide a level playing field due to which no one with more money receives special treatment. This means ISPs cannot slow down the websites or services of small businesses that can’t afford to pay for the so-called fast lanes. ISPs also wouldn’t be able to censor online content, excluding illegal content. It guarantees that everything on the internet is available to everyone at no additional cost.
However, with net neutrality, users only pay for the service, not the data they consume. This means that customers who use less bandwidth pay the same as someone using higher bandwidth. Offensive, dangerous, and sometimes illegal content will become accessible to everyone and difficult to remove. Also, if ISPs can’t charge more for their services, they can’t invest in their infrastructure. This means that the opportunity of providing remote areas with the Internet is lost.
Net neutrality was repealed in the USA by the Federal Communications Commission. However, several ISPs still may be reducing the bandwidth to lower costs. David Choffnes, assistant professor of College of Computer and Information Science at the Northeastern University, and his team have developed an app named Wehe. This app helps detect when an ISP is violating regulations and is available for download on the Android store.