A federal appeals court recently gave a ruling that struck down the Federal Communication Commission's Open Internet rules. This ruling allows providers to slow and even block selected World Wide Web traffic. The ruling even went one step further and threw out the rule from the Federal Communication Commission that barred service providers from blocking Internet traffic outright.
US-Based Verizon Communications, filed the suit and it has been largely flagged as a problem for the likes of Netflix and YouTube and yet the wider implications of it are a problem for the continued growth of the Internet. A 'two-tiered Internet' in which speedier delivery of content is given to the likes of Google's YouTube, to Netflix and to Amazon who have all seen rapid growth through digital channels would give any young upstarts, the potential Google of tomorrow, a second class connection. Competition should not be stifled in such a manner, if Google pays for their services to be delivered quicker to consumers how would a competitor in that space be able to compete with their multi-million dollar budgets?
Though the problem being that if regulation is enforced it would reduce investment into the underlying infrastructure as incentives would be lessened and opponents of net neutrality would say that it is due to the unregulated market the World Wide Web has flourished. On the flip side of regulation, having an unregulated system allows for providers to innovate on a more open space and new companies to form to compete. Anti-competition laws must be in place to increase competition and decrease the dominance of large key players, as was shown when AT&T announced it would purchase T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom for $39 billion in 2011 and the United States Department of Justice announced it would seek to block the takeover though the bid was ultimately abandoned.
AT&T recently launched the idea of 'Sponsored Data', that is passing the cost of getting the data to the consumer onto the developer. Think Facebook paying for your Facebook data usage or Amazon covering the cost of your next ebook download.. It looks staunchly anti-competitive and would force consumers to pay more for using a non-sponsored app. "The announcement of a sponsored data program by AT&T puts it in the business of picking winners and losers on the Internet, threatening the open Internet, competition and consumer choice." said Congresswoman Anna Eshoo of California on the matter, a sentiment that is echoed across consumer groups and Internet advocacy groups. Though Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC commented - "If it develops into an anti-competitive practice ... if it does have some kind of preferential treatment given somewhere, then that is cause for us to intervene."
The Internet and the World Wide Web have spawned an era of technological progress and innovation that has led to huge socio-economic benefits across the globe. This is something that should not be stifled, something that should not be restricted and should remain the free, open platform that it has been from the beginning. Tim Berners-Lee, the British inventor of the World Wide Web has criticized the lack of regulation and is a net neutrality advocate, weighing in on the debate commenting - "There have been suggestions that we don't need legislation because we haven't had it. These are nonsense, because in fact we have had net neutrality in the past -- it is only recently that real explicit threats have occurred."