Net neutrality. This once foreign concept that sounds straight from the Matrix, is now defining the way we work, play, and absorb the internet. The striking thing is that many of the internet’s current users don’t understand how.
At its core, net neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should provide equal and open access to all websites, without favouring those that pay for higher speeds, or discriminating on the basis of content. This notion governs the way we operate online, and the content we view, at its core ensuring the guarantee of free speech
If ISPs were to pander to companies paying more for better access, content and opinions showcased on other websites unable to pay would be redistributed onto a slower strand of internet. This segregation of the internet is what net neutrality aims to avoid. Legislation of the internet is essential to maintaining net neutrality, otherwise ISPs may reject content they dislike, block apps that are competitive, and relegate unpaying content providers to a slower band of internet. The internet as we know it wouldn’t exist if ISPS charged for content and allowed corporations to have priority treatment.
"It’s like FedEx. You pay a certain amount for overnight delivery and a certain amount for two-day delivery. You could end up with something like that for the Internet."
— Philip Weiser, Dean, University of Colorado Law School on a the subject of losing net neutrality
How is it implemented?
Last year in the US, the FCC voted in favour of strong net neutrality rules geared towards maintaining a free and open internet. Having received a staggering 4 million submissions in relation to the FCC’s net neutrality proposal, the Open Internet Order was passed which was designed to prevent Internet service providers from blocking or slowing users’ connections to online content Governments face opposition to such legislation from corporations with obvious vested interests. Some find ways to circumvent this – for example, Facebook’s recent provision of internet to many parts in India has been skeptically interpreted as a method of asserting online dominance there. To avoid this, or other instances of a singularity of internet content, governments are increasingly regulating internet in the same fashion as utilities.
Why is this good?
A neutral net will creates democratic participation on the internet and upholds freedom of speech. It also ensures that media power is not concentrated in the hands of a wealthy few, allowing small players equal opportunity. By keeping the internet free and open technology, we avoid losing diversity and innovation and instead foster democratic communication.
Equity crowdfunding was built with the aim of assisting small and medium-sized businesses with gaining access to capital. In the same way equity crowdfunding has democratised finance, net neutrality is democratising the internet. Net neutrality shares equity crowdfunding's ethos: to create a level playing field for all participants.