Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld its decision on Net neutrality, allowing the Internet to remain free and open. Following appeals and lawsuits put forth by mobile operators, in addition to major pushback from large service providers and cable operators, the FCC is celebrating the victory. While operators feel that the decision is ultimately a disservice to both themselves and consumers, in reality, it’s a huge win for consumers.
A brief recap: the FCC first proposed Net neutrality in 2009, which at the time was called the Open Internet Order. Since that time, Net neutrality has faced lawsuits put forth by operators. Throughout this legal battle, the FCC has maintained that Net neutrality will be the driving force in protecting the availability of a free and open Internet by eliminating operators’ ability to increase speed on certain sites and slow it down on others. Even after this historic decision, Net neutrality decision will likely still face an ongoing legal battle – AT&T has already stated that it will continue to fight the decision – but in the immediate, it will prevent operators from subsidizing the success of various apps, services and websites that rely on the Internet and its underlying network.
For operators, this decision ultimately inflicts their ongoing and immediate effort to drive revenue and profit, but will ultimately have a great impact on how the freedom of the Internet is driving the wider economy across the globe.
The Global Conversation
The Internet has served as a platform that has helped drive global innovation by allowing everyone to participate and take advantage of its capabilities. For consumers, this recent decision ensures that operators cannot charge consumers extra for things like streaming videos. For streaming services and app providers regardless of size, this ensures that they won’t have to pay a fee to deliver a fast, efficient experience to its users.
Globally, we’re already seeing the far reaching impact of this verdict as it replicates itself across the global Internet in various iterations. The EU implemented its own Net neutrality rules in April 2016 and there is a growing understanding of the regulation and implementation of Net neutrality in other markets, too.
For example, Facebook’s efforts to provide basic Internet service to developing countries where connectivity is limited, with a particular focus on India -one of Facebook’s largest markets - garnered a few skeptics in the region early on who recognized the questionable legality of the initiative. The initiative, called Internet.org, only allowed accessibility to a limited number of sites including of course, Facebook, leaving out some key competitors.
After Internet.org launched, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) began exploring its own ruling on Net neutrality in March 2015 as many people in India rallied around the effort. The TRAI was pressured to reach a decision by December 30 and Facebook immediately sprang into action in an effort to prevent Net neutrality from passing. Unfortunately for Facebook, the decision passed and the Net neutrality ruling went into action in January 2016 as Facebook slowly backed away from implementing its Internet.org initiative in India.
What It Means
While Facebook made a valiant effort to increase connectivity worldwide, its efforts were thwarted in the name of Net neutrality. Worldwide, the importance of Net neutrality is proving that it knows no bounds and that any type of subsidized Internet will not be tolerated. For consumers, this is ultimately the best decision even if it potentially impacts the progression of worldwide connectivity for the time being.
As Net neutrality’s reach continues to expand on a global level, the United States now has the unique opportunity to serve as an example for how Net neutrality can function, as well as assisting others worldwide to implement similar regulations.