The concept of network neutrality has raised very hot arguments between the various internet stakeholders. The concept of network neutrality has been defined in numerous different ways. The definition majorly addresses the issue based on the final goals which wish to be achieved (Lameley and Lessig, 2000). At the end of the day the final question which needs to be answered is whether the online sources being debated about should be left for the whole public to access or not. A great percentage of the network neutrality issue is revolving around the internet service providers and network operators who have the potential and power to regulate the type of internet applications and information should be accessed by the internet users (Lameley and Lessig, 2000).
Network neutrality is the concept of ensuring that all information, applications, and all lawful internet contents are accessed freely without any discrimination (Stanford law and economics, 2010). This concept was raised after the discovery that the internet service providers have the power to regulate and discriminate the access of certain online resources and applications (Levinson, 2010). Even though the network service providers are faced with the responsibility of preventing harmful information such s viruses and other malware, the concept of network neutrality disputes the fact that they have the power to block certain users from accessing certain internet applications, it emphasizes that those companies should carry data providing services without any impartiality or blocking certain users from accessing some of the internet applications (Levinson, 2010). If this policy were adopted it means that the internet service providers may not have the allowance to set price tariffs based on the type of applications to access (Stanford law and economics, 2010).
The fight is mainly based on the fact that everyone should have equal access to all internet applications and other services. The network neutrality concept also emphasizes that contents of all applications in the internet should be treated equally (Marsden, 2007).
Network neutrality problems
The main questions surrounding the concept of network neutrality is not to decide who is right in this debate between the supporting or the non supporting of the concept of network neutrality but to see whether the various problems which are being articulated can be solve without any further arguments (Peha, Lehr and Wilkie, 2007). The final decision reached should not be in conflict with the available legal framework. The main problem surrounding the concept of network neutrality is the lack of a universally accepted definition simply because of the different goals that are being aimed at by the various scholars who attempt to define the term ‘network neutrality’ (Peha, Lehr and Wilkie, 2007).
Many people are faced with the question: why was the issue network neutrality not addressed in the initial stages of the internet integration only for it to be raised at this time?
This is the time that the telephone and internet service providers have the opportunity to block internet content and services
This is majorly because services concerning voice and video were initially provided by telephone and cable companies but such services will soon be available through the internet. These services will offer great competition to the services provided by the phone and cable companies which were the pioneers of the video and voice services (Atkinson and Weiser, 2006). The inclusion of voice and video services in the internet also offers great competition to the services which are being worked on by the phone and cable companies hence affecting their future strategies (Atkinson and Weiser, 2006). Keeping in mind the fact that almost 100% of the broadband services in the United States are provide by either the cable company of Phone Company. These gives the cables and phone companies to regulate any information being transmitted, therefore the companies are faced with the temptation of ensuring that video and voice services which directly compete with the services they offer are filtered and removed from access. This means that phone and cable companies have the ability to restrict internet access to video and voice services (Atkinson and Weiser, 2006).
The issue of network neutrality can now be addressed in a legal perspective
The United States congress has reached an agreement that there is need to create a new law that will address issues concerning e commerce and other internet services such as video franchising. The congress has also resolved to answer the question the various municipalities should be given the capability to offer internet connectivity through legislation (Ritter and Braum, 2004) . These legislations concerning telecommunication are a perfect opportunity to provide a window for the legislation of the debates surrounding the issue of network neutrality (Ritter and Braum, 2004).
Effect of network neutrality on the economy
An observation made by the economy experts has indicated that the internet has been a very important tool in the field of innovation (Sidak, 2007). The economists concerned with the issue of neutrality state that the use of internet has seen many technological inventions which had not yet been seen in other fields of development (Sidak, 2007). Through internet services the consumer of products has seen improved and high quality service delivery that has helped them reduce their costs in purchasing commodities and acquiring services. The use of e commerce (trade through the internet) has made it possible for people in different locations to trade with ease. Through e commerce a person from a certain continent is able to access goods and services offered by a person in other continent without having to physically meet the person. Another economic invention witnessed on the internet is the access of resources which provide business ideas and give procedures on how to implement such business ideas (Hahn and Wallsten, 2006). The internet has also provided many companies with an effective marketing strategy (Hahn and Wallsten, 2006).. This is because the internet has enabled many companies to make world wide advertisement of their products and services; this has great impact to the revenue of such companies because they have the ability to attract customers from a vast geographical area therefore improving their revenue. The above are the economic benefits that the internet has presented to the society at its current state (Hahn and Wallsten, 2006).
The supporters of the concept of network neutrality argue that. The fact the internet as a very prolific playground for innovations should be preserved and makes its access limitless in order to increase the amount of information needed to improve researches which are being done through the internet (Hahn and Wallsten, 2006). The supporters of network neutrality also argue that the access of the internet by all persons equally will have much more positive effects on the economy than the already existing benefits. However the people standing against the concept of network neutrality claim that the internet usage has reached its extremes and there is no need to stretch beyond the limits. It is very hard to control the internet usage and even if it were possible and advantageous it would be very hard to determine to what extent the innovations and other researches carried out through the internet should be limited (Hahn and Wallsten, 2006)..
Network neutrality and social life
In the social aspect of life the internet in its current state has had a number of advantages. For example through the internet people are able to connect through e mail service and chartrooms which are available in the internet (Yoo, 2006). The internet has also been a reliable source of entertainment this is because through the internet one can access a wide range of music, movies and video games (Yoo, 2006). However there have been arguments against the internet as a source of information, this is because of the availability of pornographic materials and other adult content which are available for access for persons who have not attained the age of majority. Even though internet service providers try to regulate such information the young people still come to have access. The internet has also been a source of comprehensive education materials from all field of study (Yoo, 2006). For example the internet contains articles and journals about researches in certain fields of study. The internet also [provides books previews and also give an opportunity for people interested in such books to purchase. On the contrary the internets also contain journals and articles which bare obscene content. There are also online materials which provide knowledge that promotes vices in the society for example online articles on how to hack. With the dynamic technological advancements one can now obtain his bachelor or master’s degree online (Yoo, 2006).
Despite the fact that the internet is a very important social source because it provides education information and its comprehensiveness in terms of providing entertainment (Yoo, 2006). The internet has also promoted certain social vices, the main being cyber crimes such as cyber bullying and money laundering. There have been also crimes carried out through social networks in the internet such as the famous facebook and other online sites. In this context the main question that ring in our minds is what will be the final outcome of allowing unlimited access to the public?
The proponents of the concept of network neutrality in the social context argue that the benefits of the internet with regard to the social aspect of life outweigh the negativities (Yoo, 2006). The proponents argue on claiming the various developments that will be witnessed in the field of education will have positive long-term effects on both the moral, economic and political position of the society (Yoo, 2006). The proponents also highlight factors such as speedy communication through e mail and chartrooms. The question is will we ignore vices such as access of pornographic materials, cybercrimes to prevail in the society in the name of promoting education and communication?
The opposing parties to the concept of network neutrality have a lot to put in the table concerning the current state of the internet and also its state after the adoption of the network neutrality concept (Yoo, 2006). Despite the fact that there are legislations providing for certain crimes and vices carried out through the internet the latter ends up going unpunished in the name of lack of evidence connecting the culprit to the alleged crime. Instead of the internet providing a way to overcome such vices, the internet keeps providing information which promotes such vices (Yoo, 2006). The promotion of vices such as hacking, access of pornographic materials, money laundering and spreading of propaganda by the internet at the current state gives enough reason why the access of the internet should be greatly limited in order to prevent such. The main question at this point is, are we going to limit access to education materials, important online social articles and communications in the name of avoiding vices promoted through the internet?
Network neutrality and the law
The regulations governing the network neutrality were included in various United States congressional bills in the year 2005. The bills sought to reform the 199 6 telecommunications Act. Currently there have been several attempts to legislate the concept of network neutrality in the United States.
Apart from the Internet Freedom and Freedom preservation Act and Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008 the other attempts to legislate the concept of network neutrality have failed. The main focus of the two United States bills is on the following
- Network operators discriminating against certain internet service providers in the use of broadband services
- The ability of particular providers of internet content being degraded by the network operators
- Some network operators are imposing certain restrictions with in line with the attachment of devices whose applications can be used in their network
- The network operators allowing certain services and restricting these services to other internet service providers.
Several conflicts have been witnessed in the United States and in Europe really demonstrate that the concept of network is not really what some scholars are alleging it to be. In Madison River a united states based company prevented the DSL subscribers from using the voice over internet protocol and in another scenario a network operator based in the United States Comcast Corporation was sued for preventing the users of Bittorent from seeding downloaded files. In Europe some network operators were alleged to block the voice over internet protocol and communication between peer to peer systems (Cave and Crocioni, 2007). Another network neutrality concern was triggered in Europe when some network operators blocked the voice over internet protocol service from some Nokia N95 in 2009 (Cave and Crocioni, 2007). Another network neutrality concern is the fact that some network operators have already started selling services which will offer prioritization in various different internet application types (Chirico, Haar and Larouche, 2010; OECD, 2007).
The above are major concerns which show that the concept of network neutrality really needs to be addressed so as to reach to a solution which will help eliminate the debate concerning network neutrality (Jones and Sufrin, 2008). It is important also to make sure that the network operators and internet service providers do not miss use their power by restricting internet access to certain internet users (Jones and Sufrin, 2008).
Ways to prevent activities that lead to discrimination of data flow
Network operators who block certain services without providing a satisfactory reason should face the law; therefore there is need for legislation so as to address the issue of network neutrality s as to see to it that remedies are provided for such (Valcke, Queck and Lievens, 2005). The main network neutrality problem which has been highlighted is the fact that network operators discriminate against internet content service providers and other internet users. The only way to eliminate this problem is by making proposals which will see to it that the power of network operators to regulate data floe is effectively regulated (Valcke, Queck and Lievens, 2005).
Regulation of competition
Another way to avoid the issue of data neutrality is to ensure that the various telecommunication service providers maintain specific boundaries which will see to it that unnecessary competition does not arise which will make certain telecommunication get tempted to bend the data send via the internet in their own favor (Atkinson and Weiser, 2006).
Arguments against network neutrality
- It is “a solution without a problem”
The acquiring of video through the internet is deemed as an immature industry in the internet. There is also the argument that the more internet content providers arise in the industry to compete with the already established phone and cable companies the more blocking and restriction of certain internet information and applications (Koscis and Bijl, 2007).
The other argument concerning this topic is that there are existing scenarios where the transmission of a particular person’s content is blocked by his competitor (Koscis and Bijl, 2007).
- Networks are not a public property
This is based on the fact that the various network operators have used huge sums of money in setting up their networks and therefore they have the capability to make the decision of who to use the network and who not to (Weiser, 2008). Both the telephone and the cable companies developed their communication in a business environment which had no competitors. Therefore they need to apply their power in order to compete effectively in the current competitive market. Since they control 98% of broadband communication they have a great chance of eliminating competitors (Weiser, 2008).
- Low development rate in the broadband deployment
The main argument behind this is that network neutrality will reduce the amount of returns expected on investment (Network neutrality and Broadband Discrimination, 2003).
The issue of network neutrality has brought about a tough debate between those advocating for indiscriminate internet access and those who are against it. The internet as an independent has its own effects on the social, moral and economic aspects of the society. The internet has also displayed quite a show in the legal aspect of life (Yoo, 2006). The internet has proved to be very resourceful when it comes to the issue of new inventions. The internet has helped in engineering several of new services and products which have never been witnessed in other development and research playgrounds. Some of the services include E commerce and online advertising (Yoo, 2006). The disadvantages of the internet with regards to the economic aspect of life but opponents of the concept of network neutrality claim that in terms of economic services and inventions, the internet has attained its limits. The major question is to what extent should the economic services and innovations made through the internet be regulated and why? (Keeping the internet neutral, 2008)
The social part is the most contested part; this is because of most social vices which take place in the internet. This is because internet service providers and network operators ted to control the internet to limit such vices. There are many questions surrounding the concept of network neutrality such as, will it allow the kind of data promoting such kind of vices be allowed to flow freely? (Keeping the internet neutral, 2008)
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