VIEWS & INTERVIEWS

US net neutrality repeal may affect free & easy access to content online

KUALA LUMPUR – If the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is successful in repealing the net neutrality ruling in the US, it will create a barrier for consumers to access a wide range of content at affordable prices, said Dr Amal Punchihewa, director, technology and innovation, Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU).

Speaking to APB, he continued: “Consumers have already paid a price to obtain broadband services from an ISP. As bandwidth becomes more affordable for consumers over the past few years, ISPs, either in collaboration with another service provider or individually, cannot discriminate their services to throttle or block content — that is the fundamental principle of net neutrality.”

Without proper regulations and enforcement, ISPs may choose to provide preferential treatment in the delivery of specific content at the expense of others, a scenario that will not only affect the public’s access to content, but also potentially prevent broadcast and other media service providers from offering services to other markets, said Dr Amal.

In Asia-Pacific, he cited the example of the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) decision to prevent the proposal by Facebook and a local ISP to provide free broadband access. “If the proposal by Facebook had been accepted, it will form a wall garden that restricts users to selected sites only. This is a violation of the principle of net neutrality,” Dr Amal explained.

While acknowledging that regulators, both in Asia-Pacific and globally, are looking to create more sustainable media industries in their respective countries, he believes that in the absence of regulations, the global media industry will be negatively impacted.

“Although there will be no major follow-on effects from the US repeal to other regions and countries, it will still slow down the growth and impede collaboration between telcos and broadcasters.”

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