Net neutrality is a principle introduced in 2003 to express the fact that Internet providers and regulating governments must treat data in the same manner, not differentiating or charging differently between users, content, platform, type of website, application, attached equipment or method of communication.
Types of discrimination
- Discrimination by protocol: treating information in a positive or negative manner based on communication protocols that networks use to interact by favoring or blocking certain datag. cable providers which may prohibit high-speed Internet users from using popular file-sharing software such as BitTorrent.
- Discrimination by IP address: using deep packet inspection in order to filter data, it was initially used against harmful malware and nowadays for Internet censorship. It involves making real-time discrimination between different types of data and are used for services such as Google Mail or Facebook.
- Favoring private networks: Internet service providers might opt for encouraging the use of specific services through their own private networks to discriminate on which data is counted against bandwidth caps.
- Peering discrimination: arrangements between different Internet service providers that decide to improve the quality of the service for their clients.
- Favoring fast-loading websites: it might intervene with net neutrality as it was indicated that many users prefer to close the website or tab that is slow to load or does not download entire content instantly.
Arguments in favor of net neutrality
- Control of data: cable providers should not be able to screen, interrupt or filter Internet content subjectively without a court order.
- Digital rights and freedoms: by ensuring equal footing, users will feel encouraged to speak freely with no hidden agenda, thus fighting against further centralization of the media.
- Counteracting user dependency to fast-speed Internet: psychologically users get used to better quality high-speed Internet and they prefer services which can provide that.
Arguments against net neutrality
- Deterring competition and innovation: by regulating and homogenizing the sector, it becomes less compelling for service providers to compete and innovate.
- Potentially increased taxes and unnecessary regulations: net neutrality opponents argue that it might become an over-regularized area with increased taxes on broadband.
- Prevent overuse of bandwidth, particularly for video streaming and peer-to-peer file sharing.
- Creation of alternative services: if over-regularized, the principle of net neutrality might be counteracted through services specialized in covering the legislative loopholes or even outside the regulations.
Although the principle is an important means to ensure non-discrimination and equality of data, it still needs to come a long way in order to be applied homogenously.