How To Explain Net Neutrality To A Five-Year-Old

America’s Federal Communications Commission’s has voted three to two in favour of its chairman’s proposals for new net neutrality regulations.

The proposals will have a huge impact on how Internet Service Providers (ISPs) treat Internet traffic, but what the heck is net neutrality anyway?

Mark Steel, CEO, Imago Techmedia

“Think about your school playground and imagine you are in charge of the climbing frame. If everyone in your class was lining up to play on the climbing frame, you would let your friends push to the front of the queue, so they could play first. Anyone who isn’t your friend would have to wait longer to have a turn on the climbing frame and they wouldn’t get to play for very long. You might even ask them to give you money to skip ahead in the queue!

“Now imagine that you are still in charge of the climbing frame but you let everyone play on it, not just your friends. Everyone lines up for a turn and waits until they get to the front of the queue. Does this seem more fair? This is how net neutrality works. It is the idea that everyone using the Internet can visit any websites, watch any videos and play any games they want to, and the big companies who provide Internet services can’t have favourites which are quicker to find or play on – no website can ‘skip to the front of the queue’, just like your friends queuing to get on the climbing frame”.

Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CTO at AVG Technologies

“At school, your teacher must treat all the children in your class the same way. They must give you all the same level of attention, teach you all the same topics, answer all your questions. It’s very important that the teacher does not have favourites or treat some children differently to others.

“Teachers must also respect our privacy. If you want to share a secret with your friend in the playground, a teacher should not want you to tell them too.
Just like our school teachers, the people in charge of the Internet must treat us all the same way too. They are not allowed to have favourite websites or ask us to pay money to look at something if someone else can get it for free. They are also not allowed to spy on what we are doing online, just as teachers cannot listen to your secrets.
On the internet, this is what we call ‘Net Neutrality’.”

Wieland Alge, VP & GM of EMEA at Barracuda Networks

“Discussions about net neutrality can quickly become a very awkward mix of technology and ideology. But most of it is missing the point and is intended more to confuse people than convince them. The fundamentals are quite easy to understand, though.

“It is all about access to bandwidth and who is able and allowed to reserve it. It is very much like the relationship between car drivers, manufacturers and the people who own the roads. Speed limits and traffic regulations apply to EVERYone. There might be bigger and faster streets, which you can pay to use, but it is NOT possible for BMW to buy the right-hand lane of the M25 and resell it exclusively to BMW drivers.

“And this is what net neutrality is all about. The standard Internet connections treat everybody the same, regardless who or what is in the traffic packet. This prevents content providers from establishing market entry barriers for upcoming inventions.”

Piers Daniell, MD, Fluidata

“Net neutrality is all about people using the Internet being given the same rights no matter what they use it for or how much they pay. So for example, with net neutrality your friend isn’t allowed to drive their car faster on the road than you can, everyone has to drive at the same speed. You are all treated the same and everyone can drive at the same time.”

Are you fluent in the language of the Internet? Take our quiz to find out!

Duncan Macrae

Duncan MacRae is former editor and now a contributor to TechWeekEurope. He previously edited Computer Business Review's print/digital magazines and CBR Online, as well as Arabian Computer News in the UAE.

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