When the Internet was founded, it was almost an unwritten rule that the internet should be an open and endless source of information. Once the popularity of the internet took off, governments around the world wanted control. People who owned data pipes began making rules discriminating packets.

Net neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.

In Indonesia, a controversial thing is called ad injection. Say I visit a popular website such as reddit.com. What will happen is that before the page is displayed, I will be shown an ad for 10 seconds before being redirected to the website. Of course the website has no control of whats going on because they dont control the pipes that deliver the internet packets. The carriers argue that to compete with other carriers offering cheaper data plans, they have to subsidize the costs through these injected ads.

There are also the public hotspots that hijack Google ads and replace the ads with their own ads. This is happening really discretely and the common user would have no idea (or perhaps not even care). Unfortunately for the websites that the user visits, they will lose their main source of revenue. Again this is all because websites don’t control the pipeline.

Right now, the only solution to things like this is the implementation of SSL, or typically found when visiting websites using the HTTPS protocol. This way traffic is encrypted end to end so there is no way to distinguish the contents of packets. However, not all websites implement HTTPS.

Perhaps a possible solution to all of this is to make SSL mandatory for all websites. Encrypt all packets. But this would require a lot more computing power and significant resources to scale. The question becomes, should governments intervene or should we invent better technology. Governments are always slow to catching up with things, even then, who is going to enforce it once borders are crossed. The Huffington Post is not going to go after a small free Wi-Fi provider in Indonesia. Even if laws are made, who’s going to police it? This leaves technology to be the only thing to fill this gap.

Are there already solutions to go around all this? Can net neutrality be solved through technology alone? Who’s working on solutions to address this? These are the open-ended questions that remain to be answered.