Net neutrality simply means that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must allow equal access to all internet applications and content regardless of the source or nature of the content. Although there seems to be no authority capable of enforcing net neutrality on ISPs, the law on net neutrality clearly states that the internet is neutral. This means that all internet backbone owners create internet traffic on a first come first served basis (Laudon & Laudon, 2015).
Upon careful examination of the debate surrounding this contentious topic, it is my opinion that net neutrality is essential to regulate the power that Internet Service Providers have on how individuals and institutions use the internet. Although, the current neutral state of the internet has created the problem of sluggish download speeds and poor video transmission due to the heavy internet demand in big cities such as New York and San Francisco, I feel that ISPs have the capacity to improve their infrastructure without the need to result to data caps, metered connections and higher rates (Laudon & Laudon, 2015). While it is accurate that high bandwidth usage on iPhones and on video streaming sites is to blame for degrading network infrastructure as is the case in AT&T, (Laudon & Laudon, 2015) the burden of expanding networks should not fall on the consumer and if it should, then, it should be justified which it is not in this case.
Data consumption has indeed risen over the years. However, the cost of transporting data over networks has also decreased considerably. This means that ISPs are now incurring less operating costs than they used to previously (Laudon & Laudon, 2015). Instead of using these resources to upgrade and maintain their networks to accommodate the higher demand, they would like to charge internet users higher rates, impose data caps and impose exorbitant prices on high bandwidth sites such as YouTube and Netflix. One may argue that the current problem with ISPs is the lack of competition in the internet providers business, this has enabled them to attain their desire to charge high bandwidth users higher and spend very little on the maintenance of networks. If there was sufficient competition, consumers would have the option of switching to service providers that actually enforce net neutrality and actively maintain their infrastructure (Laudon & Laudon, 2015).
Apart from using negligence as an excuse to charge consumers more, ISPs would also like to disadvantage online streaming businesses by ensuring that consumers of services such as Netflix and Hulu run out their allotted data and are forced to switch to ISP backed streaming services that have no data caps as can be deduced from the deal made between Microsoft and Comcast (Laudon & Laudon, 2015). Moreover, ISPS may also block online streaming from other providers in a bid to force consumers to use their own on-demand movie rental services. While it remains uncertain whether the government or any other agency for that matter can impose net neutrality, practices such as these should be discouraged as they impede a fair competitive practice in business.
The debate surrounding net neutrality is mainly fueled by the degraded state of US internet infrastructure and ISPs’ suggestion of the “fairest” way to offset the cost of expanding networks (Laudon & Laudon, 2015). Although charging individuals who consume more bandwidth more, imposing data caps and metered use may look like fair alternatives, they impose an unnecessary burden on the consumer which ISPs are well within their means to carry.
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