economy of l&1TP3Q039;innovation

The Internet has become a public good

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The decision just taken by the United States Telecommunications Commission (FCC) is a landmark decision. After an endless legal and political marathon, the Internet is now seen as an asset that belongs to all and will be enjoyed by all without hindrance. This decision has far-reaching consequences, which unfortunately are still limited to the United States, where the Internet is regarded as a neutral space in which measures to restrict or limit access will no longer be tolerated.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the US communications regulator, can now prohibit Internet service providers from arbitrarily blocking legal content, slowing or speeding up data flows without justification, or prioritizing certain content passing through their network against payment.

Internet operators have fought hard to prevent this decision, which forges the neutrality of the Internet. This principle of neutrality means that Internet service providers such as Orange, SFR, AT&T or Verizon are obliged to carry their customers' data under the same conditions. A giant such as Google, as well as the smallest association, thus have the same rights in the routing of their data on the network. All attempts to favour those who can afford luxury routing and others are therefore prohibited.
Prohibits a two-speed Internet that could hamper innovation by preventing, for example, a start-up from launching new services in competition with large established players.
On the consumer side, this decision eliminates the practice of slowing down the connection to a site if it does not meet the operator's economic criteria. The Americans had already experienced this with the Comcast operator's subscribers who saw their connection speed to Netflix drop because the checkbook had not been sufficiently opened by the service producer.

One can imagine that the firepower of the Internet lobbies must have reached new heights to prevent this neutrality. To no avail; the Obama administration has shown remarkable tenacity here, helped by an unprecedented mobilization of Internet users who have sent four million emails to the FCC to encourage them in their effort to get these rules adopted.

This decision, for the time being American, is likely to have a strong impact in the rest of the world. The European Parliament adopted a text last April that defends net neutrality. This text is currently being studied by the Member States; will their decision be in line with the model initiated by the Americans? It is likely that it will not be easy to do so. Yes, it will, a trading document has been issued on 20 January, advocating allowing access or service providers to enter into commercial agreements with content providers or Internet users to "guarantee a minimum quality of service", thus calling into question the principle of non-discrimination, which was included in the text voted by the Parliament in April 2014. The battle is therefore raging against internet lobbies who are trying to slow down the movement for the rights and interests of European citizens for net neutrality.

While in the United States net neutrality is now enshrined, the Members of the European Parliament must, like the political determination shown by Barack Obama on this issue, really play their part in this international debate and ensure that Europe leads the legislative way in protecting the free Internet.
Photo Credit: ©Pablo-Martinez-Monsivais AP

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Ugo YachéUP' Magazine Journalist

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