• Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

The debate on the subject of Net Neutrality is certainly nothing new in the world of data. Open or Restricted? That’s the big question.

What is it?

Broadly speaking, Net Neutrality (NN) refers to the non-discriminatory transmission of content over broadband networks or the so-called open Internet. The main objective of NN is based on consumer protection, pluralism and protection of fair competition between large and small Internet players in the promotion and innovation.

The fight of David against Goliath

In the online world without NN, Goliath is represented by those big wireless providers, like Comcast, AT&T or Verizon, which have the capacity to control the web traffic.  In this sense, the contents offered on the Internet are at the will of the highest bidder. In other words, if users search for certain content, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can interfere at their discretion by blocking access, changing services or altering the flow of data.

This implies that David, the small online content generating companies, are prevented from competing with the giants due to their lack of financial backing, which leads to favoring the most solvent – “speed equals revenue”. One example is Open Source, because despite having a large presence in the current technology, small projects are affected by the restrictions and control of ISPs in data management.

A look around the globe

A U.S.-American case has been emblematic. In 2015, with the Obama presidency, the United States decided to ensure equitable, democratic and open telecommunications and the Internet through regulations that imposed restrictions on Internet service providers.

But as time went by, the discontent of strong telecommunication sectors gained more voice in the Trump administration. In 2017, the Federal Communications Commission repealed the Internet neutrality rules and ISPs were once again in control of online data. In 2018, after arduous discussions between Democrats and Republicans, the repeal was sanctioned.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the European Community is still struggling to maintain open access to the Internet. In principle the NN is regulated in Article 3 of the EU regulation 2015/ 2120, but with the advent of new technology such as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) it comes with different and new situations.

DPI is a form of packet filtering that is performed according to your firewall. The DPI evaluates the content that passes through a checkpoint and the Internet service provider or system administrator decides on the data flow. Again, users would be at a disadvantage as their privacy and online security would be compromised.

The result of the David and Goliath fight

Open Access thinking for everyone is definitely ideal, but inevitably the conflict of interest is even greater. Giant Goliath has a lot to lose if the playing field is established on equal terms. For him, plurality and freedom of choice for users are not sufficient reasons to give rise to little David in fair competition.

Personally, I think that Net Neutrality is interesting as far as the democratization of Telecommunication is concerned, since the diversity and quality of information that billions of users require daily is not measured with money. If we do not defend the NN, we will have lost much of what we have been fighting for. “Access for All”.