How Much “Freedom” Is Really on the Internet?

The World Wide Web is a vast repository of information at one’s disposal. After all, we live in the age of data and information, a time when any possible question can be answered within a few seconds and with just a few clicks on a computer keyboard. That being said, Internet access must ideally be limitless. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should know just how vital unrestricted Internet access is to people who live for and thrive with the Internet.

In fact, Tim Wu, a media law professor from Columbia University, came up with the term “Network Neutrality” in 2003 to refer to the principle that all ISPs should treat all data that courses through their networks fairly. That code of ethics was something that all ISPs around the world must adhere to as the standard as far as Internet usage goes. Supposedly, this so-called net neutrality should promote free speech all across the World Wide Web and encourage Internet users to participate in democratic debates or interchange of opinions.

In addition, that principle meant that there should be no discrimination of data that passes through the networks of ISPs most especially in the way the data communicates with Internet users and other websites. This no-discrimination policy is what gives emphasis to Internet freedom. Moreover, many governments around the world have given their go-ahead to net neutrality, and any ISP violating the mandate will face serious legal repercussions.

Unfortunately, more and more ISPs are violating this principle that they should be strictly adhering to in the first place. How do they do that? Well, either they intentionally block their users’ access to certain websites, slow down or throttle their users’ connection, or charge certain fees just so users can view or access certain websites.    

What’s worse is that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States overturned three rulings that were initially in favor of net neutrality. These rulings were:
ISPs were disallowed from tampering with their users’ connection, creating a fast lane for those who are willing to pay premiums or add-ons while slowing down the connection of those who don’t.
ISPs cannot intentionally slow down data transmission especially if the content is legal.
ISPs were disallowed from discriminating legal content by blocking certain apps or websites.

Whereas the United States decided to turn its back on its supposed “open Internet order”, some countries have remained steadfast in their efforts to adhere to net neutrality. For instance, there is a current policy in Europe that protects and advocates net neutrality. South Africa likewise continues to be in favor of net neutrality, as well as the enforcement of the principles that govern it.

With certain entities trying to stunt net neutrality, it’s obvious that there isn’t much Internet freedom anymore. It can really get frustrating especially when users pay the standard subscription rates to their ISPs only to have their Internet access limited. Still, there is a workaround to this, and you can see more here. In that source, you’ll see that with a few tricks, you can start accessing websites that have been blocked by your ISP.

Indeed, Internet freedom may be hindered by some but blocked websites are not the end-all and be-all especially if there are ways to go around those restrictions.