Net Neutrality gives voice to the people: PM

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday came out in support of Net Neutrality, saying that unthrottled access to the Internet is key to level playing field and giving voice of the oppressed.

Speaking at the Global Conference on Cyber Space in India he said that there is a need for ensuring Net Neutrality, a principle that has come under serious challenge in many parts of the world including in US.

“Net Neutrality is the basic principle that prohibits Internet service providers from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content online,” he said. “It has been the guiding principle involved in the way Internet has always worked.”

Net Neutrality is the right of users to go where they want and do what they want on the Internet without the broadband provider getting in the way.

It means a broadband provider can’t block websites, throttle services or charge premiums if certain online content in reached.

Wickremesinghe said: “Net Neutrality lowers the barriers of entry by preserving the Internet as a fair and level playing field and helps businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive.

“Similarly the open Internet facilitated by Net Neutrality allows marginalised and oppressed segments that are not adequately represented in mainstream media to tell their stories and get mobilised for justice as we have seen in recent times.”

The Sri Lankan Prime Minister’s comments come at a time when there is a raging debate over Net Neutrality globally.

US regulator Federal Communications Commission has said recently that it plans to roll back the “Net Neutrality” rules adopted in 2015.

Wickremesinghe further said that the opposition parties in Sri Lanka faced blockage of ISPs but when his party came to power, the freedom to use the Internet was ensured.

“India the world’s largest democracy with the second most populous Internet user base took a critical step in this direction when it issued regulations in February 2016, when it banned zero rating,” he said.

Cyberspace has become repository of information and knowledge, he said, adding that contrary to traditional thinking the use of open data does not compromise the idea of security.

Stating that open source data can contribute in gathering more accurate information, he cited the example of 2011 when a super computer was able to pinpoint location of Osama bin Laden.

Open source data analysis, he said, can be more effective than collecting and using data in a clandestine manner without a very specified target infringing on liberty and individual freedom.

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