If you’re not familiar with it, Internet.org is an interesting concept where unmanned drones are being tested to provide Internet access to users on the ground in developing countries, where access otherwise wouldn’t exist. The service allows users to connect to specially-created apps, such as health sites, Wikipedia, and Facebook. The drones have already been tested in the UK. The goal is to expand to 100 developing countries, giving Internet to some of the world’s poorest.
The catch (here’s where the net neutrality debate comes into play) is that this venture only allows users to connect to apps that are specifically designed for this package — they can’t go just-anywhere on the Internet. Furthermore, Zuckerberg is hoping that by bringing on large companies, such as Microsoft and Samsung, they can provide a premium service, where users pay for more content.
Net neutrality is a fairly new term, but it is something every business should be aware of. The idea is that the Internet should be free, in the sense that Internet Service Providers should allow access to all content, regardless of where it comes from. They should not allow any favoritism, even to someone willing to pay a higher price. However, if net neutrality fails, and ISPs are allowed to block content, or if they provide favoritism, then your business could have its bandwidth throttled in order to allow service to your neighbor, who might be able to pay a better fee.
The ACLU notes:
“In the past, telecom companies were always forced – formally or informally – to adhere to net neutrality principles…. All that changed in January 2014 when a major court decision stripped the FCC of its power to enforce network neutrality protections under the regulatory framework it was using. This decision provides an opening for the telecom companies to begin exploiting technologies by monitoring and controlling data sent via their networks.” -source
So Mark Zuckerberg’s comments that he would like to see premium services added to his Internet.org package seem to contrast with the concept of net neutrality. Zuckerberg’s idea would not only prevent unlimited, unfiltered access to the Internet for the developing countries’ users, but it would put a price on the content he allowed to be delivered to them.
Net neutrality is something businesses cannot ignore any longer. The decision will come to a head soon and it will affect every single Internet user in the US and all over the globe. (Global ISPs are starting to take note of what is happening in the US.)
For a further overview of net neutrality, visit: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/moyersonamerica/net/neutrality.html.
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