Debate Continues between Net Neutrality Supporters and Opponents

By: Mike Hollands

After the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued its Open Internet order in February, a protracted legal struggle seemed inevitable. The most recent battle ended after the FCC shot down a petition set forth by telecommunications companies, including AT&T, CenturyLink, USTelecom, and wireless trade association CTIA, to delay the implementation of the Open Internet order.

The petition is not surprising, as telecommunications companies and Internet service providers (ISPs) have the most to lose if net neutrality is enacted. The Open Internet order would ban paid-prioritisation agreements – the so-called "Internet fast lanes" – that would allow ISPs to charge a premium to customers in exchange for improved service.

This is a problem for ISPs that will need to continually invest in their networks to meet rising consumer demand. They will need to find another way to further monetise services and reclaim the continuous network CAPEX outlay to maintain them.

On the other hand, consumers, content providers and app developers are cheering the Open Internet order and the FCC’s denial of the telco industry’s petition. The Internet has become an irreplaceable part of our everyday lives; with 87 percent of American adults having used the internet in 2014, they’ve all realised that the Internet has a certain value. What consumers do gain is the assurance that they’ll be getting the same quality experience as everyone else, because all content delivered over the Internet will be required to be treated equally by ISPs. Consumers also won’t have to pay any new fees for the same quality services.

Also, over-the-top (OTT) content providers will benefit because they will no longer lose the price war in reliable Internet service to incumbent ISPs and telcos. The ruling will also ensure the next generation of grassroots app developers won’t need to worry about paying an extra charge to an ISP to ensure the product is being delivered quickly and fairly.

In short, this petition is just one of the things that will play out over the course of the year. The FCC still has to get its Open Internet order through appeals and past an array of lawsuits designed to take it down. However, questions still remain around the level of power lawmakers will have over pricing models and network development. Until the ruling is finalised later next year, the only certainty remains that the Internet is a critical service in everyone’s life and will never go away.