Net Neutrality: Internet access as a basic human right
Name the basic human rights, and you’ll probably guess three items: food, shelter, and clothing. Yet, the modern age urges the world to consider internet connectivity a fourth. The United States government understands this technology has become essential for every facet of daily life. That is why the Biden administration announced reviving net neutrality rules.
Ten years ago, the Internet was a mere novelty that enabled people to send texts and play 2D games. Nowadays, the World Wide Web enables us to share the products and services of everyone worldwide. We rely on the Internet more than ever, so we must defend everyone’s right to use it.
This article will elaborate on net neutrality’s definition, implications, and opposing arguments. Later, I will discuss the latest government action to promote Internet accessibility as a human right.
What is net neutrality?
The Associated Press defines net neutrality as “the principle that internet providers treat all web traffic equally.” That definition seems strange since the Internet has mostly functioned like this for years.
However, consumer advocates and regulators worry about broadband companies’ power over internet connectivity. For example, they could slow down or block apps that compete against theirs.
In 2003, Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu coined the term “net neutrality” to argue for government laws preventing prominent internet providers from discriminating against rival products and services.
Wu claimed allowing such discrimination would prevent innovation. In response, large telecommunications companies remarked they should be able to control the services they built and own.
Telecoms also said laws could undermine investment in broadband and spark uncertainty about what were acceptable business practices. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission approved regulations that ensured cable and phone companies don’t manipulate online traffic.
It prevented providers like Comcast from charging companies like Netflix a faster path to its customers. However, the FCC junked the Obama administration law in 2017.
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Fortunately, the Biden admin announced it would bring back net neutrality rules. FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a speech repealing those regulations put the agency “on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the public.”
“This afternoon,” Rosenworcel told the National Press Club, “I am sharing with my colleagues a rule making that proposes to restore net neutrality.” Then, the FCC chair reminded the audience the pandemic showed internet access is an “essential infrastructure of modern life.”
For example, the internet enabled many to continue their livelihoods from home. Also, online learning helped students attend classes and finish assignments while avoiding the virus.
Net neutrality, in simple terms
It can be difficult for some to understand net neutrality. Fortunately, former president Barack Obama anticipated this difficulty by sharing these “bright-line rules”:
- No blocking: If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, your ISP should not be permitted to block it. That way, every player — not just those commercially affiliated with an ISP — gets a fair shot at your business.
- No throttling: Nor should ISPs be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up others — through a process often called “throttling” — based on the type of service or your ISP’s preferences.
- Increased transparency: The connection between consumers and ISPs — the so-called “last mile” — is not the only place some sites might get special treatment. So, I am also asking the FCC to make full use of the transparency authorities the court recently upheld and, if necessary, to apply net neutrality rules to points of interconnection between the ISP and the rest of the Internet.
- No paid prioritization: Simply put, No service should be stuck in a “slow lane” because it does not pay a fee. That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth. So, as I have before, I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect.
Why is the Internet important?
Net neutrality promotes internet access as a human right, so it’s only natural to ask why it’s worth defending. The first reason is it lets you and the world read quality content at Inquirer Tech.
All jokes aside, modern life ties every facet of daily life to the Internet. For example, students need to check websites to research for their homework.
Gone are the days you went outside looking for “Hiring” signs on businesses. Nowadays, you must open Indeed or other job portals to send online applications.
You would likely perform most of the application steps on the company website before heading to the physical office to sign your new contract. Nowadays, many jobs require understanding how to use the Internet.
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For example, an HR assistant would need to know how to access and read online applications. Marketers must focus their time and budget on launching online campaigns because that’s where most customers are.
Businesses rely on the Internet to communicate with customers in real time. More importantly, it enables them to offer their products and services beyond national borders. You need the Internet to remain connected to your friends and family.
Most use Facebook Messenger or similar apps to chat with loved ones. Moreover, you may use social media to meet new friends with similar interests. Perhaps you use Tinder or similar programs to find a significant other.
Why should we support net neutrality?
Investopedia shares arguments supporting and rejecting net neutrality. Let’s start with the former. First, this condition forbids internet service providers (ISPs) to determine how fast consumers can access specific websites.
That allows smaller companies to enter the market with new services. Moreover, network neutrality ensures the Internet is open to everyone and stops broadband providers from committing data discrimination.
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Consumer rights advocates, human rights organizations, and software companies argue cable companies must fall under “common carriers” like public utility or public transportation companies. Consequently, ISPs will follow the same rules for the latter that restrict user discrimination.
Why should we be careful of net neutrality?
It seems strange to reject net neutrality when it could help everyone benefit from the Internet, regardless of race or status. Nevertheless, Investopedia still shared criticisms of this topic.
The website claims forcing ISPs to treat all traffic equally will discourage the investment in new infrastructure. Moreover, network neutrality will also remove reasons for ISPs to innovate.
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Internet providers claim tiered prices let them remain competitive and generate funds needed for further expansion and innovation of broadband networks. Also, that pricing lets them recoup losses from broadband investments.
Net neutrality proposes everyone should have equal access to the Internet and prevents ISPs from discriminating access depending on any circumstances. Thus, it treats internet access as a human right.
The United States recently announced it will revive net neutrality rules to improve access to all Americans. Perhaps it could inspire other countries like the Philippines to do the same.
Imagine how prominent technology has become that it may change human rights soon. Prepare for these amazing changes and other digital trends at Inquirer Tech.
Frequently asked questions about net neutrality
How does net neutrality affect cyber security?
The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence offers an interesting argument against net neutrality. It says the principle could hamper cybersecurity because it will require everyone to send and receive data at the same rate. As a result, it could prevent agencies from taking immediate action against online crimes.
Why are people against net neutrality?
The IT news website ITPro says net neutrality could make it easier for children to access legal yet age-sensitive pornographic material. The principle could cause kids to use their smartphones to bypass digital restrictions set by their parents. Also, online streaming platforms and others that need more bandwidth may charge more for their services.
Does the Philippines have net neutrality?
Inquirer Newsinfo says Vice President Leni Robredo claimed the Philippines has no net neutrality. “The research said there is no [inter]net neutrality in the Philippines because telcos in our country package games, messaging platforms, and most importantly, social media platforms into their plans and data promos,” she said.