IN an era of pervasive communication engendered by the rapidly changing technological environment, the issue of granting access to the internet to all and sundry is a recurring one around the world. Nigeria, too, is in the thick of the debate. Recently, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) used the Nigeria DigitalSENSE Forum (NDSF) in Lagos, with the theme, Net Neutrality and Nigerian Internet Users, to restate its stand on these issues as well expounding the benefits of IPv6 deployment to the economy.
Nkemdilim Nweke, the Executive Director for Operations at DigitalSENSE Africa, which organised the event, noted: “This year’s theme…was chosen to give Nigerian internet users… as well as all other stakeholders the platform to… join other ‘netizens’ in the call for an open internet…” She added that the Forum would also give participants the opportunity to “take a stand on other internet governance issues and accurately affiliate NDSF on IG4D positions into the national, regional, Africa and global agenda”.
“Neutrality, which is an ardent call for an open internet, has been on the front burner for years now and the input of every netizens, which invariably we all are, because the internet has become a way of life, needs to be heard,” Nweke said. “The debate on whether the net should be open cannot be over emphasised especially now that the internet has become a part of our everyday life. It’s important for access to knowledge, services and free speech, as well as freedom and ease of doing business online.
“Net neutrality means an internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that internet service providers should provide us with open networks – and should not block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company should not decide who you can call and what you say on that call, your ISP should not be concerned with the content you view or post online. Even though, it is advisable to note that whatever you post online tells so much about you,” Nweke added.
The Director for Regulatory Affairs at the NCC, Yetunde Akinloye, said that open internet could not be divorced from checks and balances. “We know the internet is free, it is open, but let’s be careful what we post online.” Other interventions underlined the need for the NCC to be alert to its responsibility to check abuse of the internet by all stakeholders.
The keynote address by the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, was presented on his behalf by the NCC’s Director Public Affairs, Tony Ojobo, who noted: “Today, we are looking at an aspect of one of the solutions, which have evolved out of the many efforts to propagate internet penetration and adoption. We are taking a look on how the emerging broadband environment in Nigeria, and probably elsewhere, would benefit from a solution that sought to expand the scope of internet penetration.
“At the early development of the internet, IPv4 Internet Protocol address space was developed with the capacity to accommodate 4.3 billion addresses. At that period, this was seen a very huge capacity that was probably not envisaged to be exhausted in several years. The phenomenal growth of Internet is already seeing off IPv4. It is now known that sooner or later, there will be no IP address left on the IPv4 space,” Juwah said.
“This is why the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), whose mission is to make the internet work better, came up with a more efficient IPv6 address. IPv6 space is developed to accommodate 340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000. The idea behind this huge capacity is to ensure that even if the demand for IP addresses doubled every year, IPv6 will not be exhausted in 96 years.”
The NCC boss said the availability of a new internet addressing system in IPv6 would mean that these potentials could be harnessed, as the nation continued to grow its broadband penetration. He noted that the Internet of Things (IoT) now allowed people to not just connect to others but also to things connected to the internet. “With IPv6 enabling the provision of addresses for all of these activities and with a broadband penetration that ensures pervasive availability, it is imagined that limitless opportunities would be provided for the average user in Nigeria and elsewhere,” Juwah said.
“From what we have seen, IPv6 provides an open cheque to all lovers of the internet, and it is predictable that all lovers of the internet would appreciate broad internet connectivity. We have seen today that mobile internet has taken routes. With portable smart devices, people are now browsing as they move. These activities suggest that connections to the internet will continue on the upswing with the confidence that more addresses are available to be assigned,” the EVC added.
Juwah said as a regulator committed to keeping pace with technological developments, the Commission was ready to benefit from of these technologies and services. These were all part of the NCC’s concept of technology neutrality, given that licensees and services providers themselves were not restricted to any type of technology – in so far as it brought better user experience.happy wheels