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Time

It is too early for the internet to truly become a level playing field

If you think of the internet as any other utility – power or water – does everyone get the same quality of water across the world? Or the same quality of power? I don’t think so. Similarly, not everyone gets the same quality of internet access.

As a concept, yes, we should have net neutrality, so I agree with the philosophy. However, this logic works only when you look at the issue from a social perspective. But if you are talking about it as a commodity – comparing it to retail for example – the issue becomes very difficult. Since the government doesn’t provide commodities, it shouldn’t get involved with internet services either. But in the future, I think governments should get involved – just like everyone pays the same unit price for electricity, for example, I should get the same broadband width like another company. It shouldn’t be the case that because I can pay more for faster bandwidth, I get better quality.

However, if you look at the internet, it has been around for over 50 years but the boom happened in the early 1990s. Just like there would be problems in the early implementation of any service, these are the problems the internet is facing.

Yes, access to the internet should be considered a basic human right, but it will take time to provide that access to everyone. While this happens, the prices will fluctuate. Ideally, in the future, everyone should have equal access to the internet and it should be a level playing field. But until then, net neutrality might just get revoked temporarily.

From Mr Maisam Zaidi

General manager and head of IT at a Dubai-based firm

Unpredictable

People feel strongly, but the decision will be made by politicians

There are all these people who are up in arms in support of net neutrality and are calling it the end of the internet. First of all, how did people presume that the internet was completely open in the first place? What gives you the idea that the information you were receiving wasn’t controlled at some level, and you weren’t being offered a special buffet? Censorship, or control, has already been happening. Google is a perfect example of that. When you search for something, you get results that are based on algorithms designed by Google and it chooses to show you results that it feels are more relevant. There have also been cases where the filter on searches wasn’t as objective and mathematical, Google has been sued for manually removing websites off of its search results.

I agree in principle with net neutrality – no company or person has the right to decide what I may find fit to watch. It is my right and I need to know what all is available.

But if you look at the other side of the argument, you already have algorithms deciding what content is more relevant to you and it is making your experience better. It is basing the selection on relevant user activity. Then, if companies pay more to enhance your experience based on mathematical calculations, would it really be that bad?

The other aspect is political – will the net neutrality clause be revoked? People feel very strongly about this but then the Federal Communications Council (FCC) isn’t really controlled by the average person. Normally, I would believe that people’s protests would make a difference but recently the American political climate has been very unpredictable. So, who knows – net neutrality might just get revoked.

From Mr Huzaifa Shabbir Kalimi

Tech enthusiast and businessman living in Al Ain

Principle

We are all equal on the internet

Net neutrality is a must! Blocking and limiting access to certain sites and content can be done at another level but at the level of the Internet Service Provider (ISP) the communication must be treated equally.

Once you give the permission to slow down or speed up the websites or other internet services to the ISPs, the ISPs will be controlling all of the content you see on the social media, news, and other electronic media. They will be paid by corporate giants to feed their content with an ultra-fast speed, while you and I or your small company or start-up with a brilliant idea will struggle to reach to the people because we couldn’t pay as much. Apart from that, to develop an idea on any topic with an open mind, I feel like you need to be able to reach all the content and connect with all of the people with all sides of the story. You don’t worry about how the majority thinks, because as we all know when Galileo had said “the world is round” the majority would say that the Earth is flat.

If net neutrality is not preserved, you may not be able to reach certain thoughts or opinions on some topic, and this will limit your thinking process. As a result, right now you can communicate with anyone from any country regardless of their race, language, gender, and I think it would be very good to keep it this way. I clearly say no to a process where the company that connects you to the internet gets to control what you do on the internet.

From Mr Murat Selim Ozturk

Group IT manager at a Dubai-based company

Explained

This is why the Federal Communications Council wants to roll back net neutrality

In 2015, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was authorised by Congress to regulate internet rules to ensure that all web traffic and information transmitted by broadband providers is treated equally for all users, as per set policies. Internet Service Providers are restricted in the practice of bandwidth throttling (intentionally lowering internet speeds) for video streaming, peer to peer file sharing through Bit Torrents, FaceTime and VoIP (the transmission of voice and media over IP networks).

The new Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, wants to roll back the internet rules of net neutrality. You may ask yourself, “Why is this important to me and how will such regulation affect me?”

In short, there are mixed views on what impact the relaxing of such regulations may have on commerce, consumers and innovation of the broadband ecosystem. If these regulations are relaxed or removed there could be restrictions levied on consumers through higher charges to access social media, online services, independent news content and video streaming services. Some of the online companies such as Facebook, Netflix, eBay, Amazon, Twitter and Tumblr could be adversely affected. Additional charges for quality services and high data transmissions, through premium pipelines for fast data transfer, would likely be passed on to businesses and consumers alike. This in turn may create a hierarchy of internet services and fees for corporates and consumers. The whole purpose of the internet was to provide everyone with unfettered access to online information and the transmission of information and data.

My view of the FCC’s proposal is mixed – on the one hand I see that they want broadband and telecommunication companies to self-regulate and on the other hand they want to encourage further investment and development of internet infrastructure, through the funding of premium internet services, which could provide a competitive edge and raise additional taxes for the US economy. Unfortunately, the proposal could negatively affect the ability of low income families and students to access information and connect with others through free VoIP services, both in the US and globally. I am for regulation, as long as it is in the best interest of society and economies. The FCC’s proposal for the reversal of net neutrality is likely to be more advantageous to the larger corporates, whilst negatively impacting smaller innovative web content producers and lower income consumers. A level playing field would allow equal opportunity for businesses to succeed or fail based on the quality of their websites and services.

My suggestion for small technology businesses and online retailers would be to try and mitigate their IT risk and stay abreast of the proposed US changes. The first round of public comments is now closed and the FCC will provide their formal response by August 16. If you want to have your voice heard, make your public comment on the FCC’s website. where over 8.7 million comments have been left already.

From Mr Robert Ford

Co-founder and managing director of a computer service provider in Dubai

Gulf News asked: Do you know what net neutrality means?

Yes 25%

No 75%