Bat­tle for Net neu­tral­ity

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Technology - By SHARMILA NAIR bytz@thes­

FOR all its short­com­ings, the In­ter­net has al­ways been a free and open space for many but a sin­gle rul­ing threat­ens to curb the free­dom it of­fers.

Google, Face­book, Net­flix and Twit­ter were among the 80,000 top or­gan­i­sa­tions that joined the “In­ter­net-Wide Day of Ac­tion to Save Net Neu­tral­ity” to de­nounce the pro­posed changes by the head of US Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mi­sion (FCC) Ajit Pai.

Im­ple­mented un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, Net neu­tral­ity keeps broad­band providers in check, whereby they can­not dis­crim­i­nate or un­fairly sup­port cer­tain In­ter­net ser­vices over oth­ers.

In 2015 the courts ruled that un­der Ti­tle II of the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Act, the FCC has the au­thor­ity to en­sure that In­ter­net ser­vice providers like AT&T, Com­cast and Ver­i­zon can­not block, throt­tle or oth­er­wise in­ter­fere with web traf­fic.

Ti­tle II main­tains the In­ter­net’s level play­ing field, which al­lows users to share and ac­cess any in­for­ma­tion they want.

But Pai, ap­pointed by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in Jan­uary, is push­ing to dis­credit Ti­tle II and al­low gi­ant tele­com cor­po­ra­tions to con­trol the free and open In­ter­net in the United States.

Of course, many Amer­i­cans – and oth­ers from the rest of the world – are not hav­ing it.

Web in­ven­tor and founder Tim Bern­ers-Lee, pub­lished a short video on Web Foun­da­tion say­ing, “If we lost Net neu­tral­ity, we lose the In­ter­net as we know it.”

Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg stated “Right now, the FCC has rules in place to make sure the In­ter­net con­tin­ues to be an open plat­form for every­one. At Face­book, we strongly sup­port those rules.”

So why is Net neu­tral­ity im­por­tant? Well, with­out it, ISPs (In­ter­net Ser­vice Providers) could po­ten­tially di­vide the In­ter­net into fast and slow lanes. And an un­scrupu­lous ISP could pur­posely slow down its com­peti­tors’ con­tent or shut down sites whose po­lit­i­cal opin­ion dif­fers.

This could mean that so­cial move­ments may be hin­dered, or dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy sup­pressed at its in­fancy. There would also be noth­ing to stop the ISPs from charg­ing ex­tra fees to the con­tent com­pa­nies in ex­change for faster ac­cess and other pref­er­en­tial treat­ment.

This could ad­ver­tently rel­e­gate oth­ers, in par­tic­u­lar smaller busi­nesses, to a slower tier of ser­vice.

Google in its of­fi­cial blog post said, “Thanks in part to Net neu­tral­ity, the open In­ter­net has grown to be­come an un­ri­valled source of choice, com­pe­ti­tion, in­no­va­tion, free ex­pres­sion and op­por­tu­nity. And it should stay that way.”

Net neu­tral­ity main­tains the In­ter­net’s level play­ing field, which al­lows users to share and ac­cess any in­for­ma­tion they want. —

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