The Internet was originally designed to provide universal access to a universe of documents. To achieve universal access, the original designers of the Internet felt it was critical to design the web as an open system, without a central locus of control. However, the Internet includes an increasing number of “walled gardens” that aim to control user’s access to content and services. In this section we explore the concept of net neutrality and reflect on the risks associated with universal access to online information.
“The Web as I envisaged it, we have not seen it yet. The future is still so much bigger than the past.”
What Does Net Neutrality Mean?
In addition to the challenges associated with net neutrality, think about how closed technologies can build walled gardens, for example:
- The Apple iOS which is restricted to running pre-approved applications on the hardware purchased by the user.
- The Amazon Kindle line of e-readers intentionally designed to favor the Amazon commercial ecosystem.
- Video game consoles that typically require game developers to purchase a license to develop games for the platform frequently requiring approval from the platform prior to publishing the games.
Free basics by Facebook is an application for mobile devices and business agreements with a number of companies to provide access to selected internet services without incurring data charges targeting markets where internet access may be less affordable. Free basics is part of internet.org set up by Facebook and the basic websites than can be accessed for free without data charges are determined by the initiative.
Share your thoughts on net neutrality by posting a comment on the course forum, for example:
- Net neutrality is important because …
- Net neutrality can / can’t coexist with internet.org because …
- Free basics is a good thing because …
- Free basics is problematic because …
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