At this very moment, there are no restrictions in place for what can be uploaded or downloaded from the internet. There are laws in certain nations that prohibit certain conduct. A person, for example, could get into legal trouble for uploading a movie they filmed because it violates copyright laws. Other nations restrict people from specific websites, such as China restricting access to Twitter. Net neutrality is the process that ensures content can be accesses at the same speed, through any access point, as permitted by law.
There are some definite advantages to maintaining the status quo when it comes to net neutrality, but there may be some disadvantages to the current system that could be improved as well. Here is a look at the net neutrality pros and cons.
What Are the Pros of Net Neutrality?
1. There is a system that has no restrictions in terms of communication in place.
People can communicate over the internet in whatever way they see is best thanks to net neutrality. This means more than just email or video calls. VoIP options, instant messaging, conferencing that may include a video feed, blogging, social networking, or even personal radio shows and podcasting can all be performed without question because neutrality is what rules the day.
2. There is no preferential throttling that is allowed to occur.
ISPs are able to adjust an end user’s speed of access only in regards to their subscription rates. They might charge one rate for 50/10 access, while 75/15 might be another rate. What they cannot due is change how fast data comes to the end user based on where they visit online. Streaming a video from Netflix or Hulu Plus must occur at the same speed as streaming a video from You Tube.
3. Censorship doesn’t happen on the global network.
Local governments will censor the internet based on their own laws and agendas, but it doesn’t happen over the internet as a whole. People are allowed to upload or download whatever they want and there are no restrictions as to how much data gets uploaded or downloaded either. The only restrictions that are in place involved how much data is allowed based on the connection rate that is charged by the ISP. Many ISPs have a 250-300 GB limit in place for residential internet connections.
4. It promotes a level playing field.
The internet allows anyone to start their own business online. This provides anyone anywhere with the chance to become instantly competitive with even large businesses with their talents and skills. It also provides the chance to earn a livable wage doing something that someone loves – an ability that is not possible in every local market. This means the internet is the ultimate free market system in the world today. There are 4 billion+ customers that someone from their home office can access at any given time.
5. It encourages private investments.
Small- to medium-sized businesses are the backbone of almost every economy on the planet. In the United States, it is believed that up to 98% of the jobs that are created come from this specific demographic. The internet is an essential component of many businesses, whether it is an online listing of hours and inventory to a full e-commerce platform. This allows private investments to encourage economic growth and local jobs, which ultimately helps every household in some way.
6. It limits the need for laws that control internet access.
Net neutrality creates a self-monitoring system of support. Without its presence, many local governments would likely pass laws that would limit price increases, throttling issues, and other potential disadvantages so that the internet could stay as competitive as possible for as many people as possible.
7. It is highly responsive to user needs.
Crowd-sourcing happens on the internet all of the time. From advanced screenings of movies for cancer patients to being able to find a kidney donor for someone who has been on the organ transplant waiting list for several years, people make the internet happen. This means people can be highly responsive to the needs of other people so that the world can be a better place, one step at a time.
What Are the Cons of Net Neutrality?
1. It would encourage censorship on many different levels.
Without net neutrality, an ISP could dictate what data an end user would receive. Downloads could be blocked. Video streaming could be blocked. A company could even block access to competitive websites if they wanted to do so in order to protect their profit margin. Imagine having a politician being able to pay an ISP to block informational access to their opponent’s data and that could become a reality if net neutrality were to be repealed.
2. It would limit competition.
Businesses could pay to restrict access to e-commerce platforms of their competitor. In practical terms, imagine Amazon paying ISPs to restrict access to flash sale websites because they feel like the industry is robbing them of customers. Big businesses could pay to block access to online freelancers because they can do better work for a cheaper price. Competition would be severely limited as a result, causing people to receive inferior products for inflated prices. It would kill the online business unless they could pay to compete.
3. Throttling would absolutely happen.
Maybe a business wouldn’t be able to pay ISP blockage rates. Without net neutrality, a second option to limit the competition would become available. Businesses would be able to pay for internet “fast lanes” that would allow them to have their data received more quickly than the competition. What if a TV show could be streamed in seconds from Netflix, but it would take minutes to stream it from Hulu? This would effectively limit the competition as well in a pay-to-play arrangement.
4. There would be no privacy.
There is already a lot of monitoring that happens on the internet right now. Although any data can be shared and uploaded, certain content that exploits or harms others is actively sought out, removed, and those responsible for such harmful content are prosecuted based on local laws. Without net neutrality, any ISP could monitor any data uploads or downloads to determine if they felt that the content was appropriate. This could improve security, but it would also limit privacy because everything would be placed under scrutiny for approval.
5. Costs could increase without any restriction.
Many ISPs already believe that households and businesses that use more bandwidth than others should pay more for their access to the internet. You find this in place to some extent already today. Comcast charges $109 per month for a business unlimited plan with 50/10 bandwidth speeds, while a capped 250 GB subscription costs $60 per month. Now imagine adding usage to that so that every KB of data had an associated charge and that’s what not having net neutrality would be like.
6. All of the data collected by ISPs through monitoring could be sold to advertisers.
Without net neutrality in place, the data that is being collected by internet usage would expand exponentially. Current cookies track data use based on websites accessed and searches run on sites like Google, but that data can be deleted through the browser. ISPs would collect all data, including what shows you watch, what items you purchase online, or even what you talk to others about and then sell this data to advertisers.
7. P2P options would become extremely limited.
Crowdfunding, P2P lending, and other forms of financing and business developing are threatening the structure of traditional financing. Major ISPs have already discussed how they could limit access to patch distribution, software sharing, and even open source software and app distribution. Free financing would fit into this category if the price was nice for banks and other traditional lenders.
8. The press would be limited.
Exclusive deals with certain ISPs could create marketing options that would require people to pay for news access or only go with certain ISPs for the news they want. Imagine having Fox News pay to limit access to MSNBC or the reverse happening. This would influence public opinion, further polarize the demographics, and provide money for the ISPs in the process.
Net Neutrality Keeps Business Competitive
Without net neutrality, it is clear that the ISPs would gain a tremendous financial advantage that would affect the global economy. Under current rules, if net neutrality were to disappear, an ISP could lie to you about what they were blocking and monitoring and nothing could be done to stop them. There would be no reason for them to be honest unless it were profitable.
By evaluating all of the advantages and disadvantages, however, a more consistent approach to this issue can be developed so that the best decision possible can be made. Net neutrality favors individuals. Not having net neutrality benefits corporations.