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Net neutrality no more

The FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality in the US has re-opened debate on fair competition and access to content and services on the Internet

We were not living in a digital dystopia in the years leading up to 2015, wrote Aji Pai, chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in a Twitter post last April. Further arguing that “the Internet wasn’t broken in 2015”, Pai has led the FCC in releasing a final net neutrality repeal order.

Introduced in 2015 under the presidency of Barack Obama, net neutrality regulated broadband Internet as a public utility. Advocates maintain that without regulations to mandate net neutrality, video streaming services can, through monetary incentives, persuade ISPs to provide preferential treatment for the delivery of their online video, precluding other content, including those offered by broadcasters.
The decision to repeal net neutrality in the US could also have repercussions for companies supplying content or services to the US, said Stan Moote, CTO of IABM. The lack of net neutrality, he told APB, allows ISPs to control, throttle or even charge for specific Internet data to be forwarded to their customers.

“To give a clear example, expats paid hefty fees to receive so-called ethnic programming from their homeland via satellite and cable,” Moote continued. “Large fees were often a result of paying for dedicated channels for very few viewers. The Internet changed this and many expats started buying customised set-top boxes (STBs) to receive dozens of channels — without large charges via the Internet.”

In the absence of net neutrality, content streamed to an STB or a tablet can be slowed down by ISPs, making them unwatchable. Consumers, in turn, may be subjected to specific content and services.

And it may boil down to who has the deeper pockets, as Moote highlighted: “Content providers could possibly pay ISPs not to slow their content, who may comply or not, depending on their business models. The bottom line? The ISP now has the right to control all traffic and this goes beyond streaming — cloud services, for example, can be blocked too.”

Returning to his point on the impact the repeal of net neutrality can have on companies serving the US market, Moote concluded: “The US ruling on reversing net neutrality could block the streaming of content from APAC into the US on a case-by-case basis, hence discouraging the selling of content and services to Americans which was previously allowed for with ease.”

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