Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of U.S has repealed Net neutrality by a 3-2 vote. Net Neutrality prevented Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from blocking and throttling traffic and offering paid fast lanes.
Balochistan Voices talked to Arzak Khan, Founder and Director of Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan (IPOP), about the implications of Net Neutrality for Pakistan.
He explained that Net Neutrality is the basic principle which ensures that internet service providers or telecoms treat all data on the internet in same without any discrimination on the basis of speed, pricing or platform.
“The best way to explain net neutrality in Pakistani context is that ISP should not be able to block or throttle speeds of websites or platforms like Facebook, Daraz or Whatsapp in return for charging consumers or content providers for more money. This way, startups in Pakistan and other countries can compete with big Internet giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google,” added Mr. Khan.
The issue of net neutrality is very important for internet uses in Pakistan, as existing telecommunications law in the country, while prohibiting “unjust discrimination” by ISPs, does not effectively enforce Net Neutrality.
Criticizing the Internet regulation laws in Pakistan he said that the existing laws do not sufficiently prevent the possibility of ISPs offering tiered services to content providers, there by turning the internet into a two-tiered network on which corporate content is prioritized over other content.
He believes that the dismantling of net neutrality rules in the US will bring big changes for how customers access the internet not just only in the US but globally as well. “Local startups in Pakistan that have the potential to become the next Facebook or Google may not be able to reach customers in the US, if an ISP decides to block them or charge them extra.”
One of the more worrying scenarios in the post net neutrality arena is the desire for paid prioritization by broadband service providers. Broadband companies will have the legalized advantage to ask IOT service providers to pay big bucks to ensure that their content reaches customers without any interferences.
Founder of IPOP said that In Pakistan telecom providers like Telenor, Ufone, Zong are already violating net neutrality rules by providing limited access to selected platforms like Whatsapp and Facebook to people with scarcer economic resources. “We need to understand that internet’s success is due to its openness, equality of opportunity and innovation.”
Mr. Khan claimed that IPOP has been urging the government and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to create news laws that address the issues of net neutrality as existing telecom law do not have the necessary basic protection for internet users in Pakistan. Delaying legislation on Net Neutrality in Pakistan will greatly risk the development of internet in Pakistan.