The net neutrality debate is fiercely contested, even among those who believe that the internet should remain free and open.
Net neutrality at its most basic is an internet where all traffic is treated equally, even though some web sites or web applications such as video may use more bandwidth, or be more demanding on networks. The concept has been considered internationally for years, but many governments remain undecided on the issue. However, a recent resolution by the European Parliament to protect net neutrality in all EU nation states may force member states to come down on one side or the other.
The resolution is certainly at odds with the UK government's stance. Communications minister Ed Vaizey said in November that net neutrality is not a debate that will take place in UK politics. As long as ISPs are open about network policies, the power is in the hands of consumers to either go with tiered services or take their business elsewhere, he said. BT then introduced Content Connect in January, which allows ISPs using BT's network to charge content firms for high-speed delivery of video.
The net neutrality debate is unlike the piracy one, where there is a clear distinction between rights holders who want to prevent web sites spreading copyrighted content or punish illegal downloaders, and their opponents who disagree with restrictions being put on individuals or the internet at large.
Many of those in the net neutrality debate are all fighting for the same cause: internet freedom.
Those who say they stand against net neutrality are not necessarily against a neutral internet, they just believe the case for government intervention is unproven.
The benefits of enforcing net neutrality can seem obvious. Consumers will have equal access to internet content, sites and platforms, and all internet businesses and organisations are treated on a level playing field.
A neutral internet means that the most competitive internet services naturally become those most accessible to consumers, and the internet remains pure in the sense that there are no artificial tiered services created by ISPs.
Proponents of net neutrality argue that the policy will prevent the possibility of the internet being warped as a result of ISPs blocking certain content or downgrading network performance as they see fit. What is there not to like about that?
Quite a lot, according to net neutrality opponents. For net neutrality to work, governments have to pass regulations that restrict ISPs from acting in their own interests as businesses should be allowed to do in free market economies.
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