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An Introduction to Net Neutrality – What is it?

An Introduction to Net Neutrality – What is it?
November 14, 2017 Carly

Net neutrality. What is it and why should you care? Well… Do you want the short version or the long version? We’ll give you both anyway.

Short version – It is the #Equality campaign for the websites of the world.

Before we get started on the long version, if you already know the net neutrality basics then feel free to skip ahead to our net neutrality business article.

Professor Tim Wu first coined the term ‘net neutrality’ in his 2003 ‘Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination’, but unfortunately it didn’t grab the public’s attention until John Oliver’s Net Neutrality piece in 2014. Now here we are in 2017, and as the fixed-line network monopoly that is NBN is in its final stage of the roll out, today is an important day to have this conversation.

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Why is everyone desperate to ensure net neutrality?

According to Save The Internet, net neutrality “preserves our right to freely communicate online.” Without net neutrality, service providers would be able to decide who is heard and who isn’t, which could change the internet as we know it. Service providers like Telstra or Optus would be able to slow or block websites or applications that competed against their offerings/agendas.

The good news for us in Australia is that NBN Co. acknowledges that neutrality is a big deal – stating that:

“All internet traffic should be treated equally by service providers and that there should not be any ‘fast lanes’ that give preferential treatment to paid content.”

However, simply acknowledging the importance of a neutral internet is not enough. As Warwick Davis discussed on the ACCC Regulatory Conference, Australia has no specific legislation or regulatory bodies governing net neutrality or ‘internet openness.’ This lack of legislation, regulation or even precedent blocks ACCC from addressing net neutrality and protecting both businesses and consumers.

Are there any benefits to losing net neutrality?

At this point, you’re probably thinking that net neutrality is really important, who could possibly support abolishing it? To that, we answer, the service providers of course!

Service providers have had an increased amount of pressure put upon them since our media consumption habits have shifted from traditional broadcast videos to streaming services (e.g. Netflix), and argue that they should be able to compensate themselves for that increase in demand.

For example, if you were to spend an hour on a website or emailing you would use 0.1GB BUT if you were to spend an hour on Netflix you would be using 7-10GB. This is compounded by the fact that we use multiple screens as once and the sheer amount of time we spend with our devices. This pressure falls directly upon our service providers as they rush to accommodate our ever-growing needs.

The services providers continue their argument, saying that net neutrality should not exist as they should be free to control their networks as they (the owners) wish.

Both the US and much of Europe have brought net neutrality to the forefront of public discussion, and as the NBN is rolled out and monopolises our networks, it is time we do the same.

Sir Tim Berners Lee created the World Wide Web and ensured that it was made free. Today, he is currently working with the Power of Information Task Force and The Public Sector Transparency Board in the UK to ensure that the Web is open and accessible. Without a neutral network, the entire reason Sir Tim Berners Lee created the world wide web would be completely undermined.

You may be wondering what the net neutrality debate has to do with you, or why you should care? But unless you are a big corporation, your business needs it.

Learn more about why net neutrality is essential for your business success in our article Net Neutrality – Why Does Your Business Need It?