Big technology firms in the US have joined forces on net neutrality following the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality regulations.
In December the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency responsible for regulating the US telecoms industry, voted to repeal the 2015 Open Internet Order enforcing net neutrality. This would allow internet service providers (ISPs) to speed up service for websites they favour, and block or slow others. The move has been met with strong opposition from the public, as well as public interest groups and some start-ups, who said they would challenge it.
The country’s big technology firms are not standing idly by. When the FCC released the new rules this month, the Internet Association, which “exclusively represents leading global internet companies on matters of public policy”, formally announced plans to join a legal case against the repeal. The group, founded in 2012, counts Google, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix and other tech industry heavyweights among its members.
Content providers such as Netflix, with its data-heavy video streams, could face extra charges from ISPs. Critics also contend that consumers could see packages and pricing that would steer them toward some content over others, the New York Times reports. "You and I and everyone else who uses the Internet for personal use will see some changes in pricing models," wrote Glenn O'Donnell, an industry analyst at Forrester.
On the other side of the debate, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai argues that the new rules on net neutrality would encourage more investment and innovation by ISPs. "Within a generation, we have gone from email as the killer app to high-definition video streaming", Pai said. "Entrepreneurs and innovators guided the Internet far better than the heavy hand of government ever could have."
Internet providers, who welcomed the deregulation, say they have no financial incentive to penalize certain apps or services, and that offering some sites the option of faster service could benefit consumers. According to the Washington Post, the ISPs insist that consumers' daily Internet experience will not change. “The Internet will continue to work tomorrow just as it always has”, AT&T said in a statement.