Research Notes

The debate on net neutrality will explode in the coming months

– telecom companies, internet service providers and those that live off services on the Internet should upgrade their knowledge.

A few days ago, a court in the United States issued a judgment that the American telecom regulator did not have the authority to impose net neutrality rules on operators. However the court left the door open for the regulator to follow the proper procedure and re-implement the rules.

While the net neutrality provision may be struck down for the moment, net neutrality supporters are mobilizing to restrict operators even more, specifically to reclassify broadband as common carriage. The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee has launched an effort to update the Communications Act (last revised in 1996). It is this process that net neutrality supporters will likely hijack. Here are the 30 arguments that proponents of net neutrality will use in the debate.

When it comes to net neutrality, many operators are not prepared. Strand Consult we has spent significant time and resources to to understand this issue and the debate in various countries. The knowledge is gathered in a report called Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders’ Arguments. This report ensures that Strand Consult’s customers are prepared to engage in this high stakes debate.

Net neutrality emerged before the broadband era. Today’s internet is marked by exploding traffic on wireline and wireless networks and a shift in the balance of power from broadband providers to those who dominate service provision. Over the top players (OTT) such as Google, Facebook, Netflix , Skype, Apple, Microsoft and WhatsApp have blurred the lines about the providers of data, voice, and video, and have captured regulatory attention. As telecom revenues are declining globally and governments want more broadband infrastructure investment, the economic and political arguments of the debate are evolving. Furthermore given costs and looming regulation, various parties are finding their own traffic management solutions, which depart from the archetypes which formed the original net neutrality arguments.

There are not only economic and political arguments in the debate, but heated discussions about human rights. Strand Consult has parsed these arguments, reviewed their philosophical background and provides the relevant counter arguments and evidence. To be sure, human rights are important. But even organizations such as the Council of Europe have recognized that operators are also facilitators of human rights because they provide the essential communications networks which people use to express themselves.

The report includes a case study about net neutrality in the Netherlands. This example was seen as a crucial win for the net neutrality movement and a possible influence to the EU debate and future legislation. Based upon in depth interviews, the case study describes the rule making process from the points of the different stakeholders: operators, politicians, regulators and bureaucrats net neutrality supporters, content and application providers and others. The study illustrates how with the right mix of forces, a net neutrality rule can be enacted in two months.

In the report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders’ Arguments Strand Consult has described in detail the net neutrality debate, its different stakeholders and at least 30 different arguments used. Here additional items in the report. If you already know the following, then there is no need to order this report.

1. Analysis of internet value chain and its impact to net neutrality, what if analysis if net neutrality were applied to all layers of the internet value chain

2. Discussion of the evolution of internet architecture

3. Analysis of the regulatory framework and policies of net neutrality and how current rules compare to the ideal type of policy formulation

4. Analysis of stakeholders both for and against net neutrality including powerful political action committees, foundations, corporations and individuals

5. Philosophical and ideological background of the debate

6. 30 myths and assumptions of net neutrality including the academic background, arguments and justifications. Each item includes a rebuttal with counter arguments and counter evidence.

7. 10 things that operators can learn from net neutrality supporters

8. 10 things that operators can do to address net neutrality

9. 10 engineering principles that negate net neutrality

10. Case study of net neutrality in the Netherlands

11. Case: Analysis of Verizon v. FCC, an operator’s case against the Open Internet Order

12. Additional Case Studies: Apple FaceTime, Signal Traffic on Mobile networks, internet of things, net neutrality in developing countries

13. Detailed bibliography and background for further reading

The debate and definitions about net neutrality varies greatly around the world. Strand Consult has synthesized this information to expose the paradoxes, hypocrisy and double standards held about operators and other players in the value chain. Given a dozen different definitions of net neutrality, it is possible to find many parties discriminatory including operating systems, websites, and devices. Indeed many are considering how companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Netflix, WhatsApp, Skype and others might also be regulated under net neutrality.

The report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders’ Arguments reviews the history and development of net neutrality for ideas how how the debate can be revitalized to focus on broader challenges and concerns than operators alone. Alternatively it can help operators educate net neutrality supporters and regulators to refocus their efforts using existing laws and institutions which are more appropriate to address human rights violations and issues of market power. It also gives suggestions of how operators can play a role to facilitate users’ rights without compromising their financial goals and surrendering to sub-optimal legislation.

The report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders’ Arguments is a unique and valuable toolset for those interested in net neutrality and a smart way to save time and resources when preparing for the debate. Contact Strand Consult if you would like to order this report and to do a workshop.

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John Strand, CEO, Strand Consult

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