The Future of Web Development Without Internet Neutrality
The Internet has given birth to many important services, inventions, and ideologies. Not only that, it has also provided millions of people entertainment and access to instant communication. With that in place, who wants the Internet to be limited?
Net neutrality, in the most basic sense, means everyone gets equal treatment on the Internet no matter where, what ISP they use, and network they connect to. It passively encourages creative experimentation which has given birth to many startups over the last decade – some of which are controversial like Megaupload.
Two years ago, the Internet community was rocked by SOPA and PIPA. While not exactly the first attempt of the US government, these certainly made the global news. People fought for the freedom of the Internet by signing petitions, writing and calling their representatives, placing a banner on their website, black-out entire web pages, and many more to educate the masses.
And we won. But that’s not to say that it’s over.
How Web Development Will Be Affected
In order to see the effects, we’ll need to go to the end-users’ perspective of things. Take Netflix as an example. For the last couple of months, there have been issues regarding Netflix’s streaming speed. Comcast subscribers have noticed that their connection speed works just fine for most websites, except Netflix, where their speed is throttled. After this was discovered, Netflix made plans to solve the issue, and to cut the story short, Netflix is now paying Comcast for a direct traffic access. A deal that is unheard of for other ISPs.
It’s out of Netflix’s control, but they are fighting. How will similar services survive if they don’t have the money to fight back?
Social Media and Freedom of Speech
Another perfect example is Facebook and Twitter. Back in 2010 during the Arab Spring, thousands, millions of protesters took to the streets in an organized protest with the help of Facebook and Twitter. Realizing the power of social media platforms, the governments of Egypt, Libya, and Syria fully censored their people’s access to the Internet, effectively shutting down all services. Right now, YouTube is still banned in Turkey, and just as recent as March 26, Twitter’s ban has been lifted.
Web Content Integrity
One funny instance of a company going beyond their means to increase revenue is when CMA Communications, an Internet service provider based in Texas and Louisiana, was caught red-handedly injecting their own advertisements on popular websites like Apple, eBay, and Bing. This is just a very minor issue to some, but to think that ISPs can do such a thing is frightening.
Imagine what else can communication services do under the hood? They may collect personal information, censor websites like what China is famous of doing, and perhaps even spy on your day-to-day activities on the Internet.
Please bear with me with the next paragraph. While it may appear completely unrelated to our main topic, I promise you that it is relevant, although it may require a lot of context. If you have been following the news regarding the US government’s NSA spying, feel free to skip this article from Slate.
EU will build its own Internet, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel because of the US government’s exposed spying. To which the US government basically replied how dare you build your own Internet. Indeed, how dare they protect their own interests?
Imagine having several localized Internets. The Internet we have today breaks all boundaries. I’m writing this in my room in the Philippines and you can be anywhere in the world right now reading this. You accessed this web page with just one click. What happens when you’ll need to get through several “gates” just to enjoy what you have been enjoying for several years now?
Many things can happen, or are already happening without our knowledge that can threaten the culture the Internet has given birth to. I’ve already mentioned a few above, and now I will end my tirade with this stupidly funny, but not far from reality image I found on some random website.
With net neutrality at stake, ISPs can pre-package websites and applications like how the cable entertainment industry is doing right now. Think of it as Internet tax. Oh, you want to visit this website? Sure, but you’ll have to burden our pockets first.
Now, instead of saying exactly how web development is affected, let me ask you two questions:
- As a web developer, how will your services be affected if websites and applications are taxed, speed throttled, and blocked?
- If governments can block access to websites, applications, and services, do you think websites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, DropBox, and Netflix will have a chance of succeeding if the laws against net neutrality were passed before their conception?
Is there a Way to Ensure Net Neutrality?
If you are in the US, you can either call or write to your representative and express why you think the neutrality of the net should be preserved.
If you are in the UK, you can find your representatives here.
Another way to help is to stay informed and tell everyone you know about the travesty happening. Save The Internet is a great website to stay in the loop.
Be sure to be courteous when expressing yourself.
- With the death of net neutrality, tech startups will have a harder time breaking through the market. Not to mention that with the acquisition of smaller companies by the giants, competition will dwindle and become almost impossible. Thus, limiting innovation.
- A closed system will make it harder for entrepreneurs/developers to spread out their products and services. This will also take a huge toll on innovation. Right now, the Internet is more or less free to run whichever direction the users and developers wish it to, which gives birth to life-changing services and inventions.
- Levying a fee for access on websites and services will also increase professional fees. Think of it as petroleum. A dollar increase per barrel will have a domino effect, affecting even the prices of the produce and other commodities.
Corporations lobbying the government for a tighter leash on the Internet sugarcoat their intentions with promises. ATT promises lower Internet bills if the Federal Communications Commission kills net neutrality, but communications company like ATT aren’t really well-known on keeping their promise. Remember Comcast? Comcast owns ATT. Go figure.
While this article presented several points, you should take them with a bucket of salt. Do your own research and you will discover just why people are livid about this issue.
Feel free to add your thoughts regarding this matter. I’m open for corrections too.