As the ordinance resumes the country’s 2014 regulations, are threats to net neutrality such as zero rated content and paid prioritization adequately addressed? Will these provisions be sufficient in the age of the cartel?
US President Joe Biden issued a comprehensive implementing regulation on antitrust and competition law on Friday. A part of it assignment said, that:
(l) The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is encouraged to work with the rest of the Commission as appropriate and in accordance with applicable law to consider:
(i) Adopt “net neutrality” rules through appropriate rules similar to those previously set out under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 (Public Law 73-416, 48 Stat. 1064, 47 USC 151 ff.), as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, in “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet,” 80 Fed. Registration number. 19738 (April 13, 2015);
All of this to say: The US is preparing to restore the rules of net neutrality that have been withdrawn by the Donald Trump administration.
To summarize it: Net neutrality is the concept that all data traffic on the Internet must be treated equally by Internet service providers, without throttling, blocking or discriminatory prices. The problem for the US, however, is that its net neutrality rules didn’t do much to fix the market damage in the first place. For example, cellular and landline networks in the United States may offer zero-tariff content, where content from some preselected services is offered for free while other Internet traffic is metered. This creates inherent market imbalances and limits consumer choice.
Another example is T-Mobile’s “Binge On” plan, the freed Traffic from a handful of major music and video streaming services are not measured, which is essentially an incentive for customers to spend more time on those services. The FCC’s open Internet assignment in 2015 these practices did not stop. What it did was ban on paid prioritization (when an ISP is unduly favoring a partner’s traffic) and recommends appropriate traffic management practices. With the rapid adoption of fiber broadband in the US, speed-related concerns have faded; Pricing is the real threat to competition. On the fronts that the command actually addressed, ISPs do not appear to have visibly moved in the direction of discrimination.
The case of India
The Indian rules on net neutrality are integrated into the uniform license that telecommunications service providers and fixed-line broadband providers must acquire. ISPs and telecommunications providers are not allowed to discriminate against internet traffic, neither in price nor in speed. So plans like T-Mobile’s Binge On are simply illegal. Compare that to Sri Lanka, where the lack of net neutrality rules has resulted in a kind of cutting and splitting of internet plans that would be unthinkable in India.
The US treats cellular networks differently than landline broadband networks, with carriers arguing the industry is too young to intervene even if the country is among the first to adopt 5G networks. As a result, discriminatory cellular tariffs are widespread – in addition to selecting a handful of services and making competition more difficult for competition, such restrictions also reduce the amount of data that customers can buy for a certain amount of money. The problem also persists in the fixed network: In the broadband network of AT&T, the telecommunications media conglomerate that owns the streaming services, HBO Max was rated zero.
American net neutrality rules in the age of the cartel can’t just copy and copy 2014 regulations; they must include the rigorous protective measures that countries like India have been able to implement: that means no throttling, no paid prioritization, and no zero rating. Anything else would amount to freeing platforms like Netflix from having to pay ISPs to handle the traffic and doing little to empower customers. Little seems to change in the way in which the current implementing regulation signed by President Biden looks like.
Read MediaNama’s coverage of net neutrality Here