Research Notes

Net neutrality campaigns have succeeded to make toxic rules in the US. India is the next target. The Indian regulator’s process to solicit comment on OTT will likely be hijacked by activists

Like regulators in other countries, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India seeks to update its regulatory framework to incorporate the role of over the top (OTT) services and applications in competition. TRAI offers an open process where anyone can submit comments. This process which is supposed to solicit authentic and informed comment is easily gamed with digital tools by advocacy organizations expert at conducting global campaigns from a distance. Of the alleged 4 million comments submitted to the FCC, just 1000 submissions had substance. The vast majority of comments were computer-generated form letters, many of which came from outside the United States. American media have already attempted to smear the regulatory process in India to catalyze net neutrality advocates to action.

A number of countries have made net neutrality rules or are in the process of doing so. Most operators have experienced the political interests to regulate and control the Internet. The FCC’s rules set a new standard in the demands they place on the industry—and also in their scope which could be used to regulate internet companies themselves, the very service and application providers that the rules purport to protect.

If you think that the so-called Title II regulations in the United States only apply to telecommunications companies, you are wrong. The FCC has chosen to classify broadband under the regulations of the monopoly telephone era, a sharp reversal of its policy that allowed broadband to be relatively free from regulation. In so doing, the FCC opens the Internet to hundreds of rules and provisions. Anything that the FCC deems a telecommunications service, “transmission between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing” could be regulated. The FCC has also created the ability to hear disputes and bring actions against companies using a “standard of conduct” clause. Interconnection may be the first battle.

Lawsuits have already been brought against the FCC, including one by a small broadband provider with only 700 customers.

The EU is working commission to create a compromise acceptable to both the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The art is to craft rules that please advocacy organizations without turning operators into dumb pipes. The Digital Single Market plan is supposed to help the EU exit the financial crisis, increase employment, and drive competitiveness, but net neutrality does not any of these things.

The spread of net neutrality rules around the world in the last decade is attributable to the success of advocacy organizations richly funded by the Ford and Soros Open Society Foundations as well as lobbying activities by Google and Netflix. The American rules references reports and claims by Free Press 65 times, Public Knowledge 79 times, and Netflix 60 times, key advocacy organizations in the debate. There is no doubt that the steps taken in the US will strengthen the movement in other countries and inspire politicians and regulators to push their rules even further.

Rather than net neutrality, which is subterfuge for increasing internet regulation, Strand Consult supports a modernized, competitive, and technology-neutral framework. Moreover Strand Consult believes that consumers deserve the same protections across all technologies.

The most glaring omission of the American rules is the government is exempt from any prohibition of blocking and throttling, meaning that they can censor the Internet at will. The American rules do nothing to protect people against widespread and growing surveillance by the American government. There is no free and open Internet if American regulators and intelligence agencies routinely surveille networks and collected bulk data on users in the US and abroad.

Strand Consult has studied net neutrality around the world for years and has assembled its knowledge in the report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders’ Arguments. The updated version of the report includes

1. A deep dive into over the top (OTT) technology and how it impacts competition
2. A review of regulatory frameworks for OTT competition around the world
3. An overview of the American rules and summary and takeaway of the 400 pages of regulation
4. How the rules will likely be applied, if not abused, to regulate operators and internet companies
5. A list of flaws, shortcomings, inconsistencies, and defects in the rules
6. A list of potential legal challenges
7. A review of advocates tactics and strategies in lobbying for net neutrality rules
8. A global summary of net neutrality rules around the world, the actors, instruments, and components

This report will ensure that Strand Consult’s customers are prepared to engage in this high stakes debate. To purchase this invaluable report and participate in a workshop with Strand Consult so that you are prepared to engage in the net neutrality debate, contact Strand Consult.

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