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What is Net Neutrality? And Why’s Everybody Talking About It?

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Net Neutrality is one of the hottest topics of 2019 and there are reasons for that because the outcomes of the debate over the Net Neutrality may affect every little aspect of the lives of Americans and the rest of the world’s population in the West.

Big Tech has a bullseye on its forehead while China’s model shows what consolidated national internet can do with no restrictions in regard to privacy or democratic values. 

The silencing of Hong Kong protests, global internet outages in Iraq, and Russian as well as Iranian political monopoly over the internet and its consequent censorship don’t happen by chance. Read on to find out more about Net Neutrality and why Trump’s administration attempts to take it down in this year’s rematch between the supporters and the opponents of this principle.   

What is Net Neutrality? 

Net Neutrality is a principle that the providers of internet services must treat all internet communications equally. In other words, the principle disallows the providers to favor some parties if it hurts the interests of other parties. Take, for example roads or telephones. Everyone can use them and it is impossible to imagine a telephone company to cut off anybody based on their ideological or other distinctions.

In countries like Russia or China you can be tracked and even jailed if you criticize your government online or support something that is unfavorable to the state and conflicts with its interests. 

In America you can (and you should, if you’d like it to be better) criticize the government and in the best tradition of democracy test the limits of free speech by addressing the issues out loud. Today it means doing that via the web. 

Moreover, without Net Neutrality big corporations would receive a preferred treatment while small-scale business operations will be left without the ability to somehow level a playing field. This could potentially lead to the growth of monopolies (Google, Netflix, Amazon) or their further empowerment.

So, What’s the Deal?

Trump’s administration as well as other conservatives strongly believe (and they rightly do so) that Big Tech (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, etc) is biased against them. Trump and his supporters are sure that Google favors liberal content over conservative content and shows search results for the former first. 

Google has never admitted that it is true, though the majority of Google employees really have liberal views and are strongly against such initiatives as Pentagon contracts (such as Maven that we covered earlier). Trump also has beef with Amazon’s Jeff Bezzos who uses one of the world’s most powerful media outlets (Washington Post) to criticize Trump. 

Freedom of Speech, Privacy and Democracy

Suppose internet becomes censored in favor of governments. What about privacy, then? That is exactly what Edward Snowden warned us against – national surveillance, the invasion of privacy, sophisticated targeting to brainwash us, suppression of the freedom of speech and the end of democracy. Liberal values won’t survive without open internet and Trump’s administration decidedly wants liberals to be silenced in the same manner it approaches media agencies that for 3 years continuously criticized him and his supporters.

It is difficult to skip politics when talking about net neutrality because it is first and foremost a political debate. It has a lot of tech implications, though. From a political standpoint to have a nationalized internet with providers following the orders of government results in stronger information policy. On the other hand, such power in the hands of government allows it to corruptly use internet for propaganda purposes. China and Russia have already made their decisions. What’s it going to be for US? Nobody’s sure yet 

Imagine a hypothetical scenario: you support Hong Kong protests or oppose the annexation of the Crimean peninsula. You’d like to tell it online, for example, by writing a post in your blog. Well, in China and Russia your blog will be taken down and that is going to happen with the help of local internet providers. The measures can be stricter but as it is impossible to arrest a high number of people, it is much easier to just block them with a simple disconnect option.      

What’s the Status?

For the last couple of years Net Neutrality was successfully maintained and did not require defense. However, the rematch occurred this Autumn as the conservative community as well as the bunch of powerful legislators try once again are trying to assert dominance over the internet for the benefit of those in power. For now the fate of the free internet hang in the air as American citizens again and again show they disapprove American government trying to copy the policy of Russia, China and the likes of it.  


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