FCC vote against net neutrality is not the end of digital commons, even in USA | editorials | Hindustan Times
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FCC vote against net neutrality is not the end of digital commons, even in USA

The existing 2015 rules for net neutrality were challenged on the basis that such regulations would hurt further investments in infrastructure for broadband, etc. However, several studies have shown that since the 2015 rules came into effect, many internet providers have actually increased their investments and not the other way around.

editorials Updated: Dec 17, 2017 20:07 IST
Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai speaks to members of the media after a commission meeting on December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. FCC has voted to repeal its net neutrality rules at the meeting.
Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai speaks to members of the media after a commission meeting on December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. FCC has voted to repeal its net neutrality rules at the meeting.(AFP)

Under the pretext of “helping consumers and promoting competition”, the US’ Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on Thursday to repeal guidelines on net neutrality that had been put in place to ensure that internet providers in the USA could not block access to certain websites or give preferential treatment to others. Setting a terrible example for the rest of the world, the FCC voted to allow internet providers to be able to privilege one form of content over another on the internet. Even though several providers have assured their customers that they will not block or throttle content, the new guidelines give them enough room to ensure prioritised delivery of their own or partners’ content.

But this is far from the end for internet neutrality, even within the United States. Once the new recommendations are formally published and take effect in the next few months, they will almost certainly be challenged in court. Within hours of the announcement of the new guidelines, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had already pledged on Twitter to sue; and several advocacy groups are also likely to join in. While it will still be an uphill task to fight the case in court, whether or not the new guidelines will pass the scrutiny of the American judicial process is anybody’s guess.

The existing 2015 rules for net neutrality considered the internet a communications service – more like an essential utility than a product – and therefore subjected it to similar consumer protection requirements. This was challenged on the basis that such regulations would hurt further investments in infrastructure for broadband, etc. However, several studies have shown that since the 2015 rules came into effect, many internet providers have actually increased their investments and not the other way around.

The US is no longer setting the standards for laws and regulations on techno-legal issues; and this vote is another step down in the international discussion on the importance of preserving the digital commons.