Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Net neutrality 101

A year ago I was talking about Net Neutrality in this blog (A view on Net Neutrality). Today I still find this topic quite relevant especially now with the latest criticism focusing on a Facebook initiative that aims to take the Internet to everyone. Experts argued that social networking is building a "walled garden" where the poorest people will only have limited access to websites and services.

So let's talk again... what is Net Neutrality? Why does it matter? Keep on reading.

1. Introduction

Net neutrality means that all the information that travels on the network should be treated equally, sailing the same speed. It is this principle that guarantees free access to any kind of information on the network.

It is a philosophy that basically preach democracy on the network, thus allowing equal access to information to all without any interference in online traffic. That was the initial design of the Internet, enabling data transfer between points (End-to-End), without any discrimination. However, certain practices of Internet service providers (ISPs) and broadband Internet providers, important points in the development of Internet, originated the debate on net neutrality. Examples of these practices include: real-time applications; diffusion of applications that use a lot of bandwidth (P2P), (requiring greater investment in network development and are inconsistent with the providers of charging models); the increasing use of home wireless networks (which allow connection sharing with neighbors, reducing revenues of the providers). To protect their economic interests, many ISPs have introduced practices that users find illegal or harmful to the future of the Internet, especially the so-called "traffic shaping". ISPs attempt to prevent users from using wireless routers, VOIP and use file-sharing programs. In addition, some ISPs block access to certain sites and filter emails containing criticism of them.

As shown above, net neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. Several advocates of net neutrality have a definition for it, some can be seen below:
  1. Totally without discrimination: Professor Tim Wu from Columbia Law School, says: "Network neutrality is best defined as a principle of the Internet design The idea is that the best use of public information Internet aspires treat all content, sites. and platforms equally. "
  2. Limited discrimination without Quality of Service (QoS) prioritization: The North American lawmakers have introduced bills that allow satisfactory quality of service discrimination, provided that no special rate is charged for higher quality service.
  3. Limited discrimination and hierarchy: This approach allows higher fees for QoS, while there is no exclusivity in service contracts. According to Tim Berners-Lee: "If I paid for me to connect to the network with a certain quality of service, and you pay to connect to the network with the same quality or better service, then we can communicate over the network, with that quality of service" "[We] each pay to connect to the Internet, but no one can pay for exclusive access to that."
  4. First in, first-serve up: According to Imprint Magazine, Cardozo Law School professor Susan P. Crawford "believed that neutral Internet must forward packets on the basis of first come, first served, regardless of the quality service. "

2. Arguments against net neutrality

Innovation and investment
Priorities in the network are needed for future innovations on the Internet. Every communication service agrees that there should be different treatment for those who require faster or slower transport your data, implying different prices. Net neutrality would not offer incentives for innovation and competition in the market, since the ISPs do not gain anything through their investments. For example, there would be no incentive to invest in fibre optic networks if companies did not pay to have its advantages.

Server Influence
The Internet is no longer neutral, since large companies get better performance than smaller competitors because the first using replicated servers and buy higher bandwidth services. The prices vary according to the needs of each standard of individual and corporation is acceptable: a Web site you want faster data, e.g. for real-time communication, pay more. This system, called the Google of "broadband neutrality", it really is the cause of greater inequality.

Bandwidth availability
Since the 1990s Internet traffic has grown too. In mid-1990 there was the arrival of several websites with photos and MP3; in 2003 came the video streaming and P2P. Sites like YouTube and other smaller starting to offer free video content, began to use large amount of bandwidth. Some Internet service providers such as SBC Communications, suggested that had the right to charge for their content available. It was alleged that YouTube, MySpace and blogs were put at risk by net neutrality. YouTube uses more data in three months than radio and television in the world in a year. Net neutrality would limit the amount of available bandwidth, jeopardizing innovation.

Opposition to Legislation
Many politicians have questioned the government's ability to regulate the Internet in order to advance and cause no problems. Conventional legislation makes it difficult for ISPs to take necessary actions to filter information to prevent the denial of service attacks, preventing the spread of viruses and spam filtering. Some items of legislation make it illegal to prioritizing packets based on criteria that differ from fixed rate. Recent pieces of legislation, such as "The Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009," try to solve these problems, excluding the control of the law certain points that regulate the managements of the network.

3. Arguments pro-net neutrality

Digital Rights and Democracy
Net neutrality ensures that the Internet allows a free and open technology, enabling a democratic communication. All Internet content should be treated equally and distributed at the same speed without any kind of discrimination (principle End-to-End). This is the simple and brilliant architecture of the Internet that has made an economic force and socially powerful. From this point of view it is called a internet "dumb". But a new philosophy and architecture for the network are replacing this vision for a smart grid, where public communication networks would be designed to be always on, without flashing or scarcity. The intelligence would be on the end user device and not on the network.

Data Control
The pro-net neutrality believe that cable companies must provide free access to their cable ISPs, model that was used in dialup connections. They want to ensure that cable companies can not interrupt or filter content without a court order. Thus, the cable and telephone companies can not be controllers, deciding which sites will be fast or slow, or not carry, or may not prioritize their own services as slow down or block their competitors. "

Competition and Innovation
Allow cable companies charge a fee to secure content delivery quality would create what Tim Wu calls the unfair model. Charge of each site, be it a blog or Google, you can block competitors service sites and also prevent access to those unable to pay. Allow preferential treatment in traffic would put newer companies at a disadvantage and would delay the innovations in on-line services that always drove the Internet. According to Lawrence Lessig and Robert W. McChesney, without neutrality, the Internet would be like a cable television, where some companies end up control what you see and how much you pay. Net neutrality minimizes control, maximizes competition and stimulates innovation, ensuring the free and competitive market.

Preserving Internet standards
Some feel that to allow network providers to separate the transport and application layers of the Internet will result in the decline of core Internet standards. They suggest that any practice that form the bit at the transport layer based on the application affect the flexibility of transport.

Preventing the pseudo-services
Alok Bhardwaj argues that any violation of net neutrality will not involve investment, by contrast, will result in payments for unnecessary services and doubtful. He does not believe that investments will be made to provide faster service users, but that the non-neutrality objetivaria compensation by sites wishing faster than others.

4. Diversity Network

Considering the pros and cons of net neutrality, many conclude in favour of the diversity of the network, where the neutrality must be preserved, but at the same time making room for other technological and security demands. A technical principle as the End-to-End, should not be the basis for a future system of governance on the Internet. The openness of the Internet should not focus only on technical aspects, but also in political, legal, social and economic aspects. The diversity of the network would meet the various interests, respecting the equality within each network. Not a single intelligent network capable of discriminating between different applications would be necessary, but different networks for different purposes. A range of specialized networks could arise: traditional to e-mails and websites; enhanced security with for trade and government and a low-latency for real-time applications. Only the first would make use of neutrality and would adopt other technologies to make the smart grid, abandoning the principle End-to-End. The diversity of the network would meet the various interests, respecting the equality within each network. Not a single intelligent network capable of discriminating between different applications would be necessary, but different networks for different purposes.

Considering all this... what is your stand?

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Blog Editor and Owner: Luis Aparicio Fernandes (or Mikey) is a Business Expert and a Traveler based in Sydney, Australia. He is a member of The International Honor Society Beta Gamma Sigma due to his achievements in business. You can follow Luis on Google+, and LinkedIn.