On Net neutrality

Jordan Carter

The hot button topic in recent times has been net neutrality; the notion that every data packet is equal. Right now the global Internet community is facing a far bigger threat to net neutrality than ever before and there are a lot of voices making a lot of noise.

To recap lightly, the Federal Communications Commission has done an about-face on its position of last year by saying that ISPs can now charge content companies fees to access their customers. This in turn means that ‘packaged’ Internet deals are likely to become more and more prevalent as consumers are forced into paying more for accessing sites like Netflix than they would if they just wanted the Internet to read a few emails. It’s possibly worth mentioning that the chair of the FCC is a former cable network executive and lobbyist.

In his erudite piece for the Guardian, Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow sets out how unfair this is. He equates it to a telephone company giving Pizza parlour X a better incoming call service for your pizza order than Pizza parlour Y. Pizza parlour X is paying them a fee, just like you are. When you call Parlour Y, your call mysteriously fails to connect. He argues this is unfair because both you and the pizza company already pay for your phone lines, so anything on top of that is just the phone company double-dipping.

Re/code has a good piece asking if anyone out there supports the proposed changes. It finds that not many people are coming out with positive things to say, and those who may be expected to champion it – President Obama say – are staying silent.

InternetNZ’s objectives have been pretty consistent over the years. We’re dead against a closed and captured Internet and we work hard to prevent that from happening. We’re also motivated by promoting easily available access to the Internet for all New Zealanders. In short we represent the common interests of New Zealanders who use the Internet. That’s just about all of you.

Killing network neutrality would be an attack on the open Internet. It would not make for a better world, or a better Internet.

This latest move from the FCC, we think, is a threat to the above. It’s an anti-competitive move that will allow the bigger players to get bigger, while curtailing the smaller players who may not be able to afford to access customers as freely. It will shrink an already artificially shrunken market and hamper innovation: the next big idea of a Google or Facebook variety would face second-rate service quality because the big incumbents can pay.

Dealing with the New Zealand reality of the network neutrality debate is a key part of our work programme for the upcoming year. Work has already begun on figuring out how and where this is relevant to the New Zealand Internet landscape and we are going to be talking to members so we can get the best minds working on the best response.

Jordan Carter is InternetNZ CEO.

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