Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers treat all data on the Internet equally, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.
Discrimination in Net Neutrality-
Discrimination by protocol
Discrimination by protocol is the favouring or blocking information based on aspects of the communications protocol that the computers are using to communicate.In the US, a complaint was filed with the Federal Communications Commission against the cable provider Comcast alleging they had illegally inhibited users of its high-speed Internet service from using the popular file-sharing software BitTorrent.Comcast admitted no wrongdoing in its proposed settlement of up to US$16 dollars per share in December 2009.However, a U.S. appeals court ruled in April 2010 that the FCC exceeded its authority when it sanctioned Comcast in 2008 for deliberately preventing some subscribers from using peer-to-peer file-sharing services to download large files. However, the FCC spokeswoman Jen Howard responded, “the court in no way disagreed with the importance of preserving a free and open Internet, nor did it close the door to other methods for achieving this important end [goal]”. Despite the ruling in favour of Comcast, a study by Measurement Labin October 2011 verified that Comcast had virtually stopped its BitTorrent throttling practices.
Discrimination by IP address
During the 1990s, creating a non-neutral Internet was technically infeasible. Originally developed to filter harmful malware, the Internet security company NetScreen Technologies released network firewalls in 2003 with so-called deep packet inspection capabilities. Deep packet inspection helped make real-time discrimination between different kinds of data possible,and is often used for Internet censorship. In a practice called zero-rating, companies will reimburse data use from certain addresses, favoring use of those services. Examples include Facebook Zero[ and Google Free Zone. These zero-rating practices are especially common in the developing world.
Sometimes Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will charge some companies, but not others, for the traffic they cause on the ISP’s network. French telecom operator Orange, complaining that traffic from YouTube and other Google sites consist of roughly 50% of total traffic on the Orange network, made a deal with Google, in which they charge Google for the traffic incurred on the Orange network. Some also thought that Orange’s rival ISP Free throttled YouTube traffic. However, an investigation done by the French telecommunications regulatory body revealed that the network was simply congested during peak hours.
Aside from the zero-rating method, ISPs will also use certain strategies to reduce costs of pricing plans such as the use of sponsored data. In a scenario where a sponsored data plan is used, a third-party will step in and pay for all the content that it (or the carrier or consumer) does not want around. This is generally used as a way for ISP’s to remove out-of-pocket costs from subscribers.
Favouring private networks
Proponents of net neutrality argue that without new regulations, Internet service providers would be able to favor their own private protocols over others. ISPs are able to encourage the use of specific services by using private networks to discriminate what data is counted against bandwidth caps. For example, Comcast struck a deal with Microsoft that allowed users to stream television through the Xfinity app on their Xbox 360s without it affecting their bandwidth limit. However, utilizing other television streaming apps, such as Netflix, HBO Go, and Hulu, counted towards the limit. Comcast denied that this infringed on net neutrality principles since “it runs its Xfinity for Xbox service on its own, private Internet protocol network”.
There is some disagreement about whether “peering” is a net neutrality issue.In the first quarter of 2014, streaming website Netflix reached an arrangement with ISP Comcast to improve the quality of its service to Netflix clients. This arrangement was made in response to increasingly slow connection speeds through Comcast over the course of 2013, where average speeds dropped by over 25% of their values a year before to an all-time low. After the deal was struck in January 2014, the Netflix speed index recorded a 66% increase in connection. Netflix agreed to a similar deal with Verizon in 2014, after Verizon DSL customers’ connection speed dropped to less than 1 Mbit/s early in the year. Netflix spoke out against this deal with a controversial statement delivered to all Verizon customers experiencing low connection speeds, using the Netflix client. This sparked an internal debate between the two companies that led to Verizon’s obtaining a cease and desist order on 5 June 2014 that forced Netflix to stop displaying this message.
Favouring fast-loading websites
Pro-net neutrality arguments have also noted that regulations are also necessary due to research that has shown low-tolerance to slow-loading content providers. In a 2009 research study conducted by Forrester Research, online shoppers expected the web pages they visited to download content instantly. When a page fails to load at the expected speed, many of them simply click out. A study found that even a one-second delay could lead to “11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and 7% loss in conversions”.This delay can cause a server problem to small innovators who have created new technology. If a website is slow by default, the general public will lose interest and favor a website that runs faster. This helps large corporate companies maintain power because they have the means to fund faster internet speeds.On the other hand, smaller competitors have less financial capabilities making it harder for them to succeed in the online world.