Our illusion of network neutrality

network neutralityThere’s a growing debate whether the current network neutrality of Internet can be considered as such. One can argue that, apparently, given that Internet is not “owned” by someone that’s why there’s no one who can govern the behaviors of its users.
Indeed, the bright side of it is that we can see the development of collective knowledge as an example of a desirable behaviour. On the dark side – the proliferation of computer viruses and hacking. But the question is – can we consider that Internet nowadays has still any kind of network neutrality at all?

Our illusion of network neutrality

Let’s analyze what we mainly use Internet for: searching stuff; and sending and receiving stuff. In other words – if we look at the functionality that we expect that Internet will provide us as a platform – we’ll mainly see that most of the use is oriented towards looking for answers for the questions we might have. Now, where we’ll be asking those questions and seeking our answers? Indeed – in any of the main searching engines that exist. Nevertheless, that might not represent itself a significant issue for the network neutrality if the existing players were fragmented enough so none of them could be in a position that allowed (potentially) biasing the results of our search results. Anyhow, let’s assume that there’s a scenario in which few large players could be performing almost the totality of all the searches performed on Internet. In such scenario we then might look at whether there could be any potential incentive for any of the search providers to benefit from a potential bias in the search results. In other words – even they might have the possibility for doing so – what would be the incentive for them? (At this point I should say that any similarity of the assumptions with reality should be considered as a mere coincidence).
Let’s bring the previous scenario on step further – let’s assume that some of those large players might provide, beyond their search services, other services that could be competing with the services that other third parties offer through the same network and that can only be found through the few big search engines that exist. It becomes evident that even assuming that there’s no “proven evidence” of any bias in the search results, what would be the credibility for the end users that any of those search engines are complying with fair play practices and are truly neutral in their search results?
Given that human beings tend to form their perception of the world based on their experiences and the information they receive from the environment, what could be the implications when we might “suddenly” realize that Internet is no longer neutral? As long as there are incentives for any of the search engines (working as network nodes) that would reward any acts of subversion of the Internet platform to take advantage by controlling it, it would probably  be naïve to debate who really controls the opinions of the masses. Let’s see where lobbyist lullabies will bring regulators, but I’m afraid that, regrettably, our network neutrality has already vanished long time ago without us even noticing it.

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