Net Neutrality: What Is It And Who Does It Affect?
The internet in 2017 stands as a great achievement: an unlimited network of computers on which can be found the sum of human knowledge. It has also been created on the principle of equal and open access to all, a principle underpinned by the idea of net neutrality.
What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality determines how Internet Service Providers (ISPs) behave. Internet technology was designed to send information as quickly as possible and, thanks to net neutrality, ISPs are not allowed to charge different rates for sending or receiving information.
Who does net neutrality affect?
Net neutrality affects ISPs but also the end user. If not for net neutrality, an ISP would be free to vary their charges. They might decide to charge people more for streaming videos, or charge companies such as Netflix if their videos don’t stream quickly enough. It is the equivalent of a company owning your drive or street and charging you extra to drive to the nearest main road during rush hour.
Who enforces net neutrality in the UK?
Net neutrality, is currently enforced in the UK by The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (Berec) and safeguarded under European Union legislation – for the time being, at least. The IT industry is founded on open competition, through which leading innovators such as Your Online Mechanic can thrive. Without net neutrality, ISPs could take payments from companies to favour their service, thus stifling competition and innovation.
In 2016, Berec published guidelines on net neutrality which, effectively, established the right of all data to be treated equally. Now, only a limited number of services can apply for special treatment in certain circumstances and as long as no discrimination is given; this includes high-quality voice calling on mobile networks, real-time health services, such as video feeds for use in remote surgery and live broadcasts over internet TV services.
With net neutrality coming under threat in the US [http://www.popsci.com/net-neutrality-is-under-attack-heres-why-we-need-to-protect-it#page-5] and also potentially in the UK with our imminent exit from the European Union, it’s important for us to understand what net neutrality is if we are to maintain a level playing field online.