In recent years, there has been a big debate over whether Australis should legislate net neutrality or not considering the potential risks of national security and individual safety. In the United States and European countries, net neutrality is seen as a necessary regulation for avoiding political manipulation and protecting the objectivity of search engines, such as Amazon and Google.
However, people need to realize whether the implementation of net neutrality really makes a free environment for online users in Australia. Net neutrality is beneficial to decrease blocks involved in the Internet while it is still decreasing the freedom of users to download wanted products and leads to internet traffic as well as financial pressures for Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Considering the potential challenges and disadvantages brought by net neutrality, net neutrality should not be permitted to use in Australia.
Explanation/Brief History of Net Neutrality
Net Neutrality is also called as network neutrality, which advocates that internet service providers (ISPs) need to make sure that internet communication, including search engines, should avoid discrimination or keep an open and inclusive attitude toward the need of users. DeNardis stated that ISPs need to legally make sure that all the users will have an equal access to the network and then prohibit from prioritizing or blocking different kinds of types of traffic on the network (p.132). In 2003, “net neutrality” firstly came to reality and was used to show the battle that requires representatives to protect net neutrality by using a “red alert” (figure 1).
Figure 1: Red Alert for Net Neutrality
Then, virtual private networks (VPNs) (figure 2) has been used by internet providers to make sure that a certain group of customers has access to another blocked websites. At the same time, some internet providers would like to create their own WI-FI routers, leading to the rise of the net neutrality movement in the early period of the 21st century.
Figure 2: VPN
Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has been created by the U.S government to promote net neutrality. Lots of service providers have been suffered heavy punishments in the past decades. In 2005, Madison River one of service providers in North Carolina, the United States, accepted a heavy fine from the FCC because it had blocked phone calls over the internet. This fine is seen as the first efforts to promote net neutrality rules. In 2008, Comcast did not adhere to the order from the FCC and then successfully sued the FCC under the banner of service providers having the right of slowing down connections. Although such public institutions as FCC have made efforts to promote net neutrality, online users will feel that it is not easy to achieve a real net neutrality due to a variety of blocks and barriers existed in the internet.
Undoubtedly, net neutrality, as a major outcome of technological innovation in the past decades, helps users to enter various fields based on technological innovations. There are three major requirements of net neutrality: no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization according to the FCC 2015 Open Internet Order (CRS, 2015, p.2). However, everything is not simple. The government of the U.S and European countries do not place a great emphasis on potential risks and disadvantages brought by net neutrality.
Figure 3: Net Neutrality:
Among three elements, no blocking is seen as an important one as it is helpful to protect users from downloading or seeing something illegal (Berger-Kögler & Kruse, 2011). No blocking does not mean that ISPs provide anything to the viewer. There are lots of illegal things that a person would do per day while they have little awareness. For example, fake names or news provided by such search engines as Amazon and Google misguide users. To decrease the impacts from advertisements, some users would like to use the third-party software to block advertisements provided search engines that they are not interested in. It is not permitted to download or save picture from Google as they are property of additional persons. As a result, lots of freedoms that online users experience today are likely to go away, such as just only one happy birthday video on YouTube.
Throttling plays an essential role in decreasing internet traffic and maintaining network integrity. No throttling is another important rule that net neutrality would advocate, and requires that ISPs do not have the right of slowing down or speed up certain service unless they are legal (Capobianco,2016). In other words, government owns the right of assessing whether the issue is legal or not. Additionally, although throttling make sure that ISP will make sure that all persons will enjoy the similar speed and chance to reach wanted content, ISPs would decrease the speed investment in the infrastructure, and negatively impact the improvement of total available bandwidth, making more persons have access to more wanted content within a similar time. In today’s life, more digital devices are equipped with Android to communicate with each other or do business. As a result, T-Mobile network is likely to suffer a massive problem, and even users would suffer internet traffic. Under such a circumstance, T-Mobile must throttle users who are using the communication app for providing a free and equal access to users. Then, throttling is likely to be solved by ISPs by themselves. For example, Netflix(figure 4) is seen as a victim of no throttling, and its users often complain internet traffic. As a streaming media, Netflix has provided services and products to millions of users per day. Through using throttling, Netflix can solve the bandwidth problems by itself, and then maintain its customers. Given that more ISPs in today’s life have used throttling, ISPs should be provided more rights to create a stable environment for online users.
Figure 4: Netflix
No Paid Prioritization
No paid prioritization implies that ISPs should not be favor some legal traffic over additional legal traffic because users purchase them. In reality, it would be seen as “no fast lanes”. Just like highways, some cars would like to go through eight lanes if they pay for it while some cars are required to go through six lanes if they do not pay. When it comes to reality, some ISPs are likely to pay a premium for having a high speed and advancing the internet (Kourandi, Krämer & Valletti, 2015). As net neutrality does not permit ISPs to provide paid prioritization, the ISPs would not upgrade systems or advance the internet. At present, more organizations have been required to support legal traffic. Just like Netflix, streaming media would utilize paid prioritization to gain more revenues and then decrease internet traffic. Therefore, net neutrality is a bad idea as it is likely to make Australia fall even lag behind in average internet speeds throughout the world.
In conclusion, the government of the United States places a great emphasis on Net Neutrality, and advocates that net neutrality is helpful to create a free environment for online users. However, Australia’s government needs to realize that net neutrality does not really contribute to fostering the online environment. On the contrast, net neutrality does not really foster the internet environment but leads to high financial pressure and a serious internet traffic. In essence, the government would like to add more regulation on the internet environment, and then have a strong control over the internet under the manner of net neutrality. Therefore, more ISPs have worked together to make sure that the internet will not be controlled by the government. Overall, people need to realize that the government needs the internet while the internet does not need the government, especially the one that hopes to control the network under the banner of net neutrality.
Berger-Kögler, U., & Kruse, J. (2011). Net neutrality regulation of the internet?. International Journal of Management and Network Economics, 2(1), 3-23.https://doi.org/10.1504/IJMNE.2011.042577
Capobianco, J. (2016). Effects of net neutrality. Political Analysis, 18(1), 5. https://scholarship.shu.edu/pa/vol18/iss1/5
Congressional Research Service. (2015). Access to Broadband Networks: Net Neutrality. Retrieved from https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/IF10955.pdf
DeNardis, L. (2014). The global war for internet governance. Yale University Press.
Kourandi, F., Krämer, J., & Valletti, T. (2015). Net neutrality, exclusivity contracts, and internet fragmentation. Information Systems Research, 26(2), 320-338.https://doi.org/10.1287/isre.2015.0567