In Singapore, we have an array of telcos to choose from: Be it Singtel, Starhub, M1 or Circles.Life, all of them provide the data plans we require for surfing the internet with our phones.
Eh well, you may argue that these telcos are “same same, but different”, but that’s a topic for another time.
Back on topic. Now, imagine if you signed up with one of these companies and found out that you are unable to access YouTube.
And, just like the annoying prompt for microtransactions in a mobile game, a pop-up window is now demanding $5 of your hard earned money just so you can access YouTube.
Sibeh sian, right? Good thing that wouldn’t happen to us.
…Or will it?
(Sorry for being dramatic)
So, here are some facts you might want to know about Net Neutrality.
If you prefer to watch this instead, here’s a video we’ve done for this topic.
If not, read on!
1) The internet
If you have no idea what the internet is, I really wonder how you’re reading this article at this very moment.
Well, we’ve got to start somewhere, so just let me briefly tell you what the internet is about.
A connection to a Wi-Fi signal is required for you to be able to access the internet. The Wi-Fi is generated by a router which is connected to the modem.
Your internet service provider (ISP) will then find the data you require and deliver it to your browser.
However, the data will be passing through many “gates” in this process. When you’re travelling overseas, you will have to present your passport for verification, right? Yeap. It’s the same here.
Think of it this way: for YouTube to come to you, it needs to go through the ISP’s gate, the modem’s gate, the router’s gate and eventually, your phone’s gate.
For example, if you didn’t pay your bill, the “gates” would be closed…by your ISP.
Or your company might close a gate in the office router, disabling your access to YouTube in your office.
2) Net neutrality
Okay, remember the gates I was rambling on about? Net neutrality ensures that when the ISP’s gates are open, all data’s treated equally.
It doesn’t matter if you use a lot of data on Netflix, YouTube or uh, websites “For Academic Purposes”. As long as you want to access a website, you just have to click on it and the data goes through the gates.
That’s Net Neutrality. Pretty self-explanatory, right?
It’s kinda like soccer (or football, depending on where you’re from). Gatekeepers do their best to prevent data from going through them.
For example, if your boss doesn’t want you surfing Facebook at work, he’ll place a gatekeeper at the gate (usually at the router or firewall level, which is another layer).
Any data from Facebook will not be allowed to pass through.
If your parents doesn’t want you to surf YouTube at home, they can place a gate at the router.
Now, imagine if your ISP is also a gatekeeper.
4) ISP: What can they do?
Well, technically, your ISP can easily place gatekeepers at the gates. So, why are they not doing that?
In most countries, Net Neutrality is a law. In other words, your ISP cannot place gatekeepers wherever they want.
However, ISP will sometimes would be told by the government to place gatekeepers at certain harmful websites.
I guess you won’t need examples.
5) Why the sudden interest in Net Neutrality?
Unless you’ve been abstaining from any forms of media, you should have heard about the US Federal Communications Commission(FCC) repealing Net Neutrality.
In other words, if everything goes well for the FCC, Net Neutrality will no longer exist in the US.
And this, has no doubt triggered a lot of people.
6) Why do people want to remove Net Neutrality then?
Common folks like us might like Net Neutrality, but ISPs… well, not that much.
Why not? It’s because ISPs can actually see the traffic coming through. Imagine if the ISPs realized that 40% of their traffic goes to YouTube.
Why not charge YouTube for that then? Or better yet for the ISPs, charge the consumers who are trying to access YouTube.
Besides, some ISPs offer their own video streaming services too, which competes with services like Netflix.
So, without net neutrality, they can simply block Netflix or deliberately slow down Netflix’s streaming speed.
Basically, it’s all about the money.
7) The benefits of removing Net Neutrality
Well, yeah. Believe it or not, removing Net Neutrality does have some positive effects.
Without Net Neutrality, ISPs will grow (as mentioned above)and can perhaps invest in better infrastructure and services.
Big media companies can also make use of the barriers to entry to eliminate smaller competitors if ISPs demand money from the companies.
Being unable to afford the costs, the small media company will be denied entry to the market, benefiting the big companies.
…no matter how I look at this, this argument for “the good of Net Neutrality” isn’t convincing me. Too many counter-arguments available.
8) The problems with removing Net Neutrality
This should be obvious by now. ISPs can force their users or the websites to pay for the usage of the gates.
It’s essentially like ERP. Now you know how painful it is, huh.
It’s definitely no good for the common folks.
9) Example of “no Net Neutrality”
Let’s take a look Portugal.
Although Portugal is bound by EU’s Net Neutrality rules, it allows a pricing scheme which might hint at how an internet with no Net Neutrality will look like.
Do you message a lot? Then for an extra 4.99 Euros a month, you can get more data for WhatsApp and Skype!
Imagine if this isn’t an add-on but what you have to pay just to use WhatsApp. So, it’s an extra 4.99 Euros on top of the price for your monthly data plan.
Now, that’s scary.
10) Singapore’s stand on Net Neutrality
Despite the changes in the US, Singapore still maintains its Net Neutrality stand.
A spokesperson from IMDA said:
“Since the formalisation of the Net neutrality policy, IMDA has been monitoring international development, including US and domestic market practices, as well as actively engaging the stakeholders in Singapore.”
“Currently, there is no need to revise our policy approach and we have not found any pattern to suggest that ISPs are operating in breach of this policy.”
Let’s hope it stays this way. I definitely don’t want to pay extra money just to access YouTube and Facebook!
Being a relatively new term coined only in 2003, Net Neutrality is something that’s pretty new.
While there are both good and bad points about the removal of Net Neutrality, I think we can all agree that as common folks, it’s better for us to have Net Neutrality. (Better for our wallets too)
If you need an even better example, think Facebook or Instagram: in the past, any update by you would be shown to people who are online. None of those algorithm shit.
Now? They’re pre-selected by algorithms, and if you want your post to be seen, you’ll have to pay.
Since you’re here, why not watch a video about an NTU student who went all out to impress his crush, only to end up in…tragedy? Here, watch it and do remember to share it (and also subscribe to Goody Feed YouTube channel)!
This article was first published on goodyfeed.com
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