Net neutrality is back. Three years after our first IG webinar – and the start of what is now a regular monthly IG webinar series taking place in the last week of each month – we have re-visited the topic again. The discussion focus, however, has moved from ‘defining network neutrality’ to some emerging challenges such as new infrastructure, market and policy developments, and ‘specialised services’.
At the webinar, we first reminded ourselves what net neutrality is all about: moving slowly through Diplo's illustration, we examined the need and effects of traffic management and a ‘two-tier Internet’, especially in developing countries. We then reviewed various positions: from user concerns from entrepreneurs, small businesses, and ‘over the top’ (OTT) corporations such as content providers, to ISPs and telecom companies, ending with the role of governments and regulators. Next we focused on traffic management and prioritisation, asking ourselves why this is needed for technical, economic, or legal reasons. We went more into the technology required for a ‘fast lane’, providing updates on infrastructure developments such as content delivery networks (CDNs), which have a strong impact on how we experience the Internet today.
Recent policy developments were discussed, such as the Regulation on the Single Telecoms Market initially adopted by the European Parliament, rules about the future of the ‘Open Internet’ proposed by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Brazil’s ‘Marco Civil’ clauses related to net neutrality, the final document of NETmundial meeting in São Paulo, and the model framework for net neutrality announced by the Council of Europe.
We then focused on the possible implications on developing countries of national trends taking place in developed countries– such as the effects of a ‘fast lane’ on content diversity and freedom, limits to start-ups and innovations, but also the possibilities for greater revenue for telcos and options for attracting global OTT business.
Finally, we outlined the main disagreements and open issues to be discussed: better defining the ‘appropriate management’ and economic models, and the limits of ‘specialised services’, how to ensure competition, and whether the choice of an ISP is enough or is regulation needed as well, and how to assure both human rights and freedoms and the investment needed in innovation and infrastructure. We looked at prospects for the net neutrality debate across the globe, including at the Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul in September.
The webinar also addressed a number of good questions from participants.
The full recording of the webinar is available here.