The following article was penned by Claude Calleja, an Executive at the eSkills Malta Foundation
The idea of Net Neutrality is the principle and requirement that Internet service providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination.
Net neutrality rules require Internet Service Providers (ISP) not to charge content providers higher fees to deliver their content faster. Net neutrality rules allow for the free flow of information by requiring ISPs to offer equal speeds to all content providers and applications using the Internet and to maintain the current open Internet environment.
The eSkills Malta Foundation believes that net neutrality is a basic principle that prohibits providers from speeding up, slowing down or blocking content, applications or websites you want to use.
In the absence of net neutrality, companies can buy preferential access to ISP customers. Net neutrality rules prevent this by requiring providers to connect all users to legitimate content on the Internet without favouring particular websites or services.
Without net neutrality rules in place, ISPs can prevent users from visiting websites, offering slower speeds or redirecting them to competing websites. In fact, large wealthy companies can pay ISPs to give users of their services preferential access to their websites and services.
ISPs should be able to provide customers with access to legal content and applications without favouring some sources and blocking others.
Net neutrality or open Internet is the idea that ISPs should allow all customers, regardless of race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, religion, disability, political affiliation or other factors, access to legal content or applications from any source without blocking or throttling others.
Providers are prohibited from charging content providers or deliberately slowing down the speed of content providers that might compete with them. Providers are not free to slow down the transmission of data based on the type of content and, for example, they are not free to offer faster bandwidth to companies to the detriment of other companies.
Advocates for network neutrality suggest that by not allowing ISPs to determine the speed at which customers can access specific websites or services, smaller companies will be more likely to enter the market and create new services.
This is because smaller companies may not be able to afford to pay for “fast lane” access, while larger, more established companies can. For example, several well-established social network websites were created without much seed capital. Had they been forced to pay extra in order to be accessed at the same speed as competitors, they may never have become successful.
Advocates view net neutrality as a cornerstone of open internet and propose that it be mandated by law to prevent broadband providers from practicing data discrimination as a competitive tactic. Proponents of net neutrality include human rights organisations, customer rights advocates and software companies, who believe that open internet is critical for the democratic exchange of ideas and free speech, fair business competition, and technological innovation.
They argue that cable companies should be classified as "common carriers", like public utility companies or public transportation providers, who are forbidden by law from discriminating among their users.
They advocate the principle of a "dumb pipe," maintaining that intelligence should be located only at the ends of a network, and the network ("pipe") itself should remain neutral ("dumb").
Advocates of net neutrality see public broadband as a possible solution.
Critics of network neutrality suggest that by forcing ISPs to treat all traffic equally the government will ultimately discourage the investment in new infrastructure, and will also create a disincentive for ISPs to innovate.
The up-front costs associated with laying down fibre optic wire, for example, can be very expensive, and critics argue that not being able to charge more for that level of access will make the investment more difficult to pay off.
Opponents of open internet include conservative think-tanks, hardware companies, and major telecommunication providers. The providers argue that they must be allowed to charge tiered prices for access in order to remain competitive and generate funds needed for further innovation and expansion of broadband networks, as well as to recoup the costs already invested in broadband.
The eSkills Malta Foundation believes that net neutrality should be upheld and strengthened especially in a small market such as the Maltese one. Net neutrality guarantees fair and equitable access to the internet for everyone no matter their socio-economic differences. This in turn spurs innovation and promotes creativity.
This article was prepared by collating various publicly available online sources.