Battle for the Net: major websites band together to oppose FCC net neutrality repeal
Websites from across the internet have banded together in protest against proposals from America’s Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to repeal laws designed to prevent internet service providers (ISP) from restricting access to or preferring specific websites.
The “Battle for the Net” campaign has attracted support from major sites including Reddit, Netflix, Amazon and Mozilla who have united against the repeal, which they see as an attack on net neutrality.
Net neutrality is the principle that ISPs and governments regulating the internet should treat all data on the internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, platform or application.
Rules to enforce net neutrality were brought in under the Obama administration that ban ISPs from doing any of the above, but under his successor President Donald Trump, the FCC is considering rolling back these rules following a period of public consultation.
“The FCC wants to destroy net neutrality and give big cable companies control over what we see and do online. If they get their way, they’ll allow widespread throttling, blocking, censorship, and extra fees. On July 12th, the internet will come together to stop them,” the campaign alleges.
Sites such as Reddit are displaying large messages on their home page to warn users about the incoming legislative changes in an attempt to drum up public support.
Others are displaying a message box over their content urging users to write to the FCC and Congress imploring them not to enact the repeal.
“The internet has thrived precisely because of net neutrality,” the campaign states. “It’s what makes it so vibrant and innovative – a place for creativity, free expression, and exchange of ideas. Without net neutrality, the internet will become more like Cable TV, where the content you see is what your provider puts in front of you.”
Even celebrities like Stephen Fry have taken to social media platforms to spread the message.
In the UK some prominent mobile network operators have already started to exempt social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook from their user’s data caps, giving them an inherent advantage over sites that do not receive this preferential treatment.
Felipe Flórez Duncan, a partner at economics consultancy Oxera said: “The campaign may have attracted lots of media attention, but its impact on the ultimate policy decision is uncertain.
“The ability of internet service providers to discriminate against over the top (OTT) providers such as Netflix, Amazon or Facebook is real, but this does not automatically mean that legislation and detailed regulation is necessarily the right response.
“It’s possible that the net neutrality rules could have unintended consequences and be actively used to prohibit business models and pricing structures which have the potential to create significant value for consumers.
“For example, a big debate emerged over whether zero rating – the practice of not counting certain apps such as Spotify, Pandora or Apple Music in consumers’ mobile data caps – was good for consumers or bad for those apps not included in the offers.
“Net neutrality rules were invoked to investigate these practices. In many countries, regulators are coming to the realisation that these practices are generally good for consumers. Similarly, pricing which reflects the congestion costs caused by certain applications may incentivise those OTT players to become more efficient at transmitting data over networks, potentially benefitting all consumers.
“The debate over net neutrality illustrates the complexity of trying to regulate in detail something as complex and fast moving as the internet. If net neutrality rules remain, they should be as light touch as possible, based on general non-discrimination principles, and requiring authorities to assess the costs and benefits of these rules.”