Around 5 pm on March 1, the email service provider Tutanota was inaccessible for the user of Internet Service Provider giant Comcast. The email service was unavailable for 18 hours. It is speculated that the same was done deliberately by Comcast to give priority access to other services. This where the concept of net neutrality comes in.
According to Tutanota, Comcast did investigate the issue but was unable to find the root cause of the outage. Another such incident happened in June of 2017 where "archive.org" was blocked for 14 hours for Comcast users. The users outside of Comcast network were able to access the service without any glitch. This came to the conclusion that something was wrong with the Comcast network.
So what is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is a concept that all the web traffic should be treated equally. It means that the ISPs should not discriminate between websites or services by manipulating speed and access.
When a user tries to access a content or service from the content provider, it sends the content to the user. However, the ISPs can control the speed at which the content is sent. The ISPs have full control over the transmission media and can let you believe that the content is not being delivered properly by the content provider. This is done due to numerous reasons. The ISPs can ask for a significant amount in return for high speed and prioritization of speed. The content provider can pay the ISPs to slow down or degrade the performance of their competitors.
Net neutrality implies that all the Internet traffic should be treated equally so that the small websites or startups can also be accessed in the same way as successful ones.
Why is Net Neutrality Necessary?
There is a lot to learn from the incidents like Tutanota. Whether it was a technical glitch or deliberate blocking of Tutanota, the power possessed by the ISPs such as Comcast is quite worrisome.
According to Mathias Pfau, co-founder, and developer of Tutanota, "If ISPs can block access to certain websites or services, they control the Internet. It would be naive to believe that American ISPs will not use this power once net neutrality laws are gone for good. Without net neutrality, ISPs can - and will - ask for extra fees."
As we know the Internet is shared by all the websites and services to run their business and give the user what they want. Be it social networking, gaming, news or mail, there is a lot of competition over the Internet. Imagine if some websites are provided priority over the other in exchange of revenue, the small-scale companies would not be able to pay the ISPs and the users would be deprived of all the options they can explore over the Internet. Hene, it is paramount to give an equal share to all the traffic irrespective of the website.
Federal Communication Commission's Net Neutrality Repeal and Net Neutrality State Laws
The Federal Communication Commission(FCC) has repealed the net neutrality laws that were imposed under Barack Obama's time as President. The repeal will be in effect by April 23rd of this year. The FCC voted 3-2 in favour of repealing net neutrality rules in a meeting chaired by Ajit Pai.
However, various organizations such as American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU) are against the repeal as they believe this move will encourage the ISPs to earn more money and curb the freedom of users.
Some states such as Washington are imposing its own net neutrality laws under which all the web traffic is to be treated equally. This could be a real headache for the Internet Service providers as they would have to adhere to different laws in different states. Although it is seen as a wise step by the users.