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Net Neutrality (also known as Network Neutrality or Internet neutrality) is all about creating a neutral internet. The term supports the view that Internet traffic should be treated equally; and also backs that internet should be an open platform like any other utility used in our home like electricity as Internet has already become part and parcel of our lives and has been indispensable. While many believe that network neutrality is necessary; others argue it is totally unfair.
Net Neutrality has not been popular till early 2000s when advocates of net neutrality and associated rules have raised concerns about the ability of broadband providers to use their last mile infrastructure to block Internet applications and content (e.g., websites, services, protocols), even blocking out competitors.
Net Neutrality advocates no restrictions by Internet service providers (ISPs) and governments on content, sites, platforms, the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and the modes of communication. Any website, whether it may be Google or Netflix or Amazon, should be treated the same way in terms of bandwidth used to reach the internet-connected services.
M. Chris Riley, policy counsel for Free Press, says every major Internet business, from Google to Facebook, is the product of the open Internet and open access remains essential for their businesses and the next Internet start-ups that will rise to challenge them.
On the other hand, critics of net neutrality – mainly ISPs – argue that prioritization of bandwidth is necessary for future innovation on the Internet. Scott Cleland, Chairman of NetCompetition.org, says there isn't one thing to like about net neutrality regulation, it isn't needed and, worse, it is unwise.
The aim of net neutrality is a good thing, but innovation will require non-neutral services, argues Tekelec’s Randy Fuller, director of strategic marketing at Tekelec.
In the United States, the Obama Administration has proposed a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule that would enshrine net neutrality in the States. Policy Integrity works in coalition with consumer protection groups, including Free Press and Consumers Union, in support of the policy.
While some proponents want to make net neutrality law in some countries to prevent the prioritization of some Internet services, the European Commission, for example, has refrained from adopting a law based upon the basic tenets of neutrality.
Following a recent public brag that the Dutch operator KPN was using deep packet inspection to throttle service and charge users for unintended network usage comes a massive industry buzz kill in the form of mobile net neutrality legislation. Wireless network operators in the Netherlands will no longer be able to charge customers for using VoIP service of their choice - Skype and Whatsapp, for starters.
Net Neutrality: Challenging Operators?
The push for net neutrality may be one of the biggest challenges facing telecoms in the Middle East. Speaking at the latest edition of TMT Finance and Investment Middle East 2011; Kamal Shehadi, Group Senior Vice President Regulatory Affairs for Etisalat, said that customers will determine who gives them the best internet service.
“The key challenge today that we face and hopefully it will not be an issue in the region, but as global operators, frankly is the debate about net neutrality,” commented Shehadi while adding that the adoption of net neutrality would lead to “lower investments, lower quality of service and higher costs for service providers.”