Net neutrality is the notion that all legal Internet-based services receive unrestricted user traffic. Online users must be able to access a particular site or service with the same speed and ease as any other online offering. Simply put, net neutrality ensures a level playing field for all Internet stakeholders. It stresses that the Internet will be more useful and efficient to people when the focus is not on a specific audience or a group of Internet products but on all users and services.

If there’s no net neutrality, there will be no free access, and specific broadband or Internet data subscriptions will only provide access to particular websites. This will be similar to set-top box TV subscription plans. The connection speeds to different sites may also vary.

Why is net neutrality important?

  • All Internet and web products will be given equal importance. This means there will be no discrimination and prioritized online services. Else, if YouTube pays the ISP and Dailymotion doesn’t, YouTube’s videos will stream much faster than Dailymotion’s content.
  • Net neutrality is crucial for small web-based services to start, develop and thrive. A neutral and fair Internet will ensure lower entry barriers for startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs. This will enable smaller firms to compete with the bigger corporations, thereby fostering innovation and competition.
  • No net neutrality means ISPs can alter and customize Internet traffic. The Internet could get carved into slow and fast lanes. The ISPs may censor content it finds objectionable or harmful to its business.
  • An open and free Internet also ensures ISPs don’t attach unfair prices to their services.
  • Communicating online freely through blogs, forums, etc. and not worrying about the content getting blacklisted or blocked by ISPs are only possible via net neutrality.

In most countries, such as India, net neutrality isn’t formally defined. The concept of open Internet is something their citizens have got accustomed to and see it as a basic Internet attribute. People recognized net neutrality only when some telecommunication firms and huge web-based firms struck strategic alliances.

ISPs’ Stance

Almost every ISP in the world is against net neutrality. ISPs invest several billion dollars in erecting fiber networks and they consider it as their birthright to levy dynamic prices. Most ISPs state web services that consume more bandwidth than others should pay extra for the unfair usage. They want a pricing structure that’s similar to postal services, for instance, where the charges are based on package content and delivery speed requirements.