Ever since its inception, the internet has dramatically revolutionized the world in terms of communication and technology. The impact of internet on societies is immeasurable; it has integrated societies through information sharing and enabled interaction between individuals at a level that was unimaginable decades ago. It would not be an exaggeration to say that internet is now a primary need for some communities, without it all activities would come to an abrupt standstill.
The invention and continued invention of computers, cell phones, tablets, smart watches, and other devices has set the stage for the internet to penetrate the furthest reaches of the globe. However, for many researchers and innovators, this is just the tip of the iceberg of what the internet can do. Thus as governments, industries, universities partner in evolving the internet further, it is pertinent to maintain some form of equality when it comes to this exciting technology. As much as the internet has the capacity of improving lives in extraordinary ways, it also has the capacity of oppressing societies.
As the world achieves new technological feats, like the development of the 5G network, we are beginning to see that steps are being taken to level out the playing field for internet users. The passing of a policy known as Net Neutrality by Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and UK researchers’ brand new 5G speed record are both illustrations of what the next generation of internet might look like. Net neutrality or open internet is the principle that all internet content should be treated equally, basically that internet service providers (ISPs) should give consumers access to all legal content on an equal platform without favoring or blocking others. Broadband providers selectively block or slow some internet traffic especially when it comes to their competitors. The new policy prohibits ISPs from charging content providers for fast delivery of their content while slowing down content from content providers that may compete with ISPs. ISP is a company that provides individuals access to internet like, iBurst, Web Africa, Africa INX and others. Content providers include companies such as Jumia, Netflix, Amazon and such. In effect the Net Neutrality is the idea that no providers of legal internet content should have favoritism in providing content to consumers.
Presently, only FCC and its staff have seen the newly designed net neutrality rule book which is 317 pages. The basic synopsis of the policy is that no blocking and disrupting of content by ISPs should take place, as well as an allowance to set up fast lanes. The misconception among many people is that the net neutrality new rules will suddenly change internet connectivity, or disrupt activity on the internet. However, there really won’t be any major changes, except that there will be rules that ensure the openness of the internet and to provide all companies big and small equal access to the internet. Net neutrality is just a way to make certain that a level of openness will always be available.
The net neutrality news come at a great time, as the race to develop 5G, the fifth generation mobile network continues in earnest. The potential of 5G are vast, and scientists say that unlike the 4G and 3G, this fifth generation mobile phone will be a game changer. It is estimated that by 2020, 50 to 100 billion devices will be connected to the internet, and with this network, the demand for communication will increase. Moreover, with the rise of internet accessible devices, there will be a boom in inanimate object using 5G networks, these devices have been dubbed the internet of things.
Recently, UK researchers from the 5G Innovation Center at the University of Surrey surpassed Samsung’s 5G speed record of 7.5GB per second and set the new world’s record of 5G speeds of 1 terabyte per second (1Tbps). The impact this speed could have on mobile networking is incredible; with a 5G at 1Gbps, a person could download a high-definition movie in less than a minute, now imagine 1Tbps. As of now there is no mobile device that could accommodate that kind of speed without blowing up; more storage space would be needed for one. There is hope that 1Tbps 5G network will be ready for use by 2020. In the meantime, South Korea, Japan, China and UK are shooting to produce 5G by 2020; actually South Korea hopes to launch a temporary trial for 5G network in time for the 2018’s Winter Olympic Games.
The rise of cheap smart phones has turned Africa into a mobile continent. Researchers predict that by late 2019, around 930m people in Africa will have access to a mobile phone, and three in four of those phones will have internet access. As a result, more and more Africans are expected to venture into mobile commerce, especially since mobile money transfer is now a reality in Sub-Saharan Africa. The growth of internet use within Africa has awakened 4G technology in many African nations. In Kenya, Safaricom launched Kenya’s first 4G network at the end of 2014. Even though most other countries in Africa are yet to introduce 4G network, most are working on launching them in the next five years.
Thus with the boom in ecommerce in Africa and other areas, small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs will need open internet to advertise, launch business and others. Net neutrality attempts to ensure that he Web is fair for all, and allows for emerging small businesses to thrive on the internet. The world is evolving at a rapid rate, with talks of 6G, artificial intelligences, and with rules to ensure equality on the Web, perhaps everyone will get to exploit the internet to the fullest capacity.