Is your internet connection free? Obviously most internet service providers make you pay money to use the internet, but is that the only restriction in place? As long as you pay your bill, you can access any online content or service you want. And if you pay for a 100 Mbps connection, you will get that speed whether you’re watching a movie, reading a blog, or hosting a zoom meeting – right?
These are the questions at the heart of net neutrality – the principle that internet service providers must treat all internet traffic equally – and it is particularly important for businesses to be aware of the issues and implications behind this principle.
Below we will look at what net neutrality is, the current state of Net Neutrality in the Philippines, and how a fair and transparent net neutrality practice can have a positive impact on your business.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality (or network neutrality) is the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally. This means that an internet service provider (ISP) has to provide access to all sites, content and applications at the same speed, under the same conditions, and without blocking or giving preference to any content.
In practice, net neutrality prevents incumbent telcos from using their market power to encourage or discourage the use of certain services; for example using data caps for regular internet access, but excluding certain video streaming or social media services from the data cap.
Under a non-neutral plan, you might find that using a service like Netflix to watch your videos uses up your data very quickly, while watching videos from your ISPs competing video streaming service doesn’t use your data at all.
Campaigners for net neutrality, such as freepress.net argue against Internet Service Providers (ISPs) either blocking, restricting, or slowing down access to sites and content. However, many businesses argue that they should be able to make deals with ISPs to provide unique services to their customers.
Since its inception in 2002 by Columbia Law professor Tim Wu, net neutrality has continued to be a hotly debated topic amongst businesses, policymakers, and internet users.
How do Internet Service Providers affect Net Neutrality?
Internet Service Providers are the gatekeepers of net neutrality – they have total control over what online content and services their users have access to, and how much users will pay.
However, no single ISP has total control. The internet is made up of multiple connections spread out across the entire world, and net neutral practices can be implemented or removed at any level.
This means that an upstream provider choosing to charge higher prices for certain internet services can affect how much other ISPs utilizing that network charge for their internet plans.
For this reason, many net neutrality campaigners argue that backbone providers (who have a stranglehold on the distribution of information in a country) have a moral responsibility to remain neutral and that this neutrality should become a legal responsibility to ensure compliance.
However, certain corporations and political parties argue that ISPs are in themselves not public service providers, but private corporate entities that should be allowed to self-govern their service provision to maximize profits.
Why is Net Neutrality Important for My Businesses?
Any modern business relies on the internet to operate. Whether it’s delivering services to users directly through an online shopfront, allowing remote workers to access digital workstations, or running video conferencing with clients, a fast and reliable internet connection is a necessity.
Net neutrality, therefore, means that all businesses are affected equally by the availability and price of internet services within their area. By using a net-neutral connection, a business can be sure that it is not paying undue fees simply because it has decided to use Skype for their video conferencing instead of Zoom.
What issues are common on Non-Neutral Networks?
One of the most common issues on non-neutral networks in the Philippines is when an ISP slows down certain applications or restricts speeds during certain times of the day. For example, some carriers may restrict bandwidth when their customers use Netflix to stream videos rather than their own streaming service. This means a user may be able to stream 4k video on one platform perfectly fine, but not at all on another.
Some of the issues with non-neutral networks may actually seem like a benefit at first glance – providing free or priority access to particular services. This is when a telco provides “free” or no-data usage of particular services, usually ones that they own or have a financial relationship with, to make their network seem more appealing than a competitor.
By providing privileged access to services from their business partners and affiliates while stifling others, non-neutral ISPs can stifle the competition and make it harder for other businesses to provide services in the same area.
What seemed like a good deal for the end-user at first, actually ends up costing them more because they can no longer choose from other services. Over time, this practice can lead to monopolies that drive up prices and provide inferior services – causing detrimental flow-on effects for businesses and non-commercial users alike.
What is the current state of Net Neutrality in the Philippines?
There is currently no legal legislation in place for net neutrality in the Philippines, and it is common for residential internet plans to include non-neutral offerings such as free access to particular websites or data-shaping during certain hours. It is especially common to see on mobile internet plans.
While some net-neutral campaigners argue that some restrictions need to be put in place to ensure that internet access remains free and unbiased, advocates against net neutrality are quick to point out that doing so would make it harder for ISPs to deliver low-cost internet plans,
While the debate continues, the Philippines government has taken steps to provide access to reliable and secure internet services, such as the RA No. 10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act.
Should my business use a neutral network?
Depending on the connections available to your business, and the services you use, net neutrality can seem like the more expensive option. However, by allowing for more competition in the market and not restricting access, net neutrality fosters innovation and investment in new business opportunities. Over the long term, this leads to a healthier economic environment and greater returns on investment.
RISE provides neutral, fast and reliable business internet in the Philippines with a 98% customer approval rating. We pride ourselves on transparent practices and aim as a company to improve the speed, access, and reliability of internet services across the country.