On November 22, supporters of a free internet pulled their hair in the United States. That day, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) , the gendarme responsible for regulating telecoms across the Atlantic, announced its plan to remove the principle of net neutrality. This principle, established under Barack Obama’s mandate , establishes rules requiring access providers to provide free and indiscriminate access to the content, source and destination of the data. In short, everyone needs to be able to access content equally and access to different content can not be filtered or promoted by service providers.
These principles, at first sight very logical, could therefore disappear as of December 14, when a vote will be held at the FCC. The results leave little room for doubt: three (including a former employee of Verizon, one of the largest US access providers, a group that wants more neutrality) five members of the telecom regulator commission were appointed by Donald Trump directly. And the latter has been not only very critical of this principle, which he considers as an obstacle to freedom of enterprise, but also seems to put the heart to the work as soon as it s is to unravel the legacy of his predecessor .
With this likely elimination of net neutrality, many players in the sector have stepped up to the plate. An internet based on a content filtering or an unacknowledged favoritism for some sites would inevitably cause a two-speed internet. Many fear that the access providers will increase their rates as soon as the principle of neutrality is eliminated and that they will favor, thanks to faster access or a wider choice, the people who pay the most for their subscriptions. And their fear is legitimate. Indeed, the largest providers of access, Verizon, Comcast and AT & T, have indicated that their development requires investment. This would make it possible to increase the rates of subscriptions.
Dear @realDonaldTrump: ‘net neutrality’ of some form is important. Your opponents control most internet companies. Without neutrality they can make your tweets load slowly, CNN load fast and infest everyone’s phones with their ads. Careful.
— Julian Assange 🔹 (@JulianAssange) November 21, 2017
The pill is hard to pass for the defenders of a free and egalitarian internet. At the time of Barack Obama, if these principles had been put in place to guarantee free access, they also made possible a control over potential drifts of the big providers of access and guaranteed, in a global way, a freedom of expression 2.0. This will obviously not be the case anymore. It will now rather be expected to subscriptions in the form of packs, with different rates, different connection speeds and perhaps an impossible access to some sites, according to the rates paid by consumers.
A revealing debate
If this debate has grown since the announcements of the US telecom gendarme, it is also indicative of a political America still fractured. The Democrats, who were behind this project, had adopted it under Barack Obama’s presidency to ensure equal access and protect consumers, in line with the ideology of the party. Conversely, more conservative, a certain number of members of the Republican party had criticized this decision and saw net neutrality as an obstacle to freedom of enterprise. Of course, Donald Trump is part of this second category.
Economic growth is possible thanks to a free and open Internet. Our current rule, Net Neutrality, supports innovation and puts all businesses on par with consumers
Although the elimination of net neutrality should be adopted, a certain number of voices have been raised among the defenders of these principles. On November 27, some 200 companies, including Airbnb, Foursquare, GitHub, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter and Vimeo, signed an open letter to warn of this FCC decision. ” Economic growth is possible thanks to a free and open Internet. Our current rule, Net Neutrality, supports innovation and puts all businesses on par with consumers They say in a united front, recalling that e-commerce continues to grow and that it is necessary to maintain its development in a level playing field for all. For sure that the power of Silicon Valley actors, who are all opposed to the removal of net neutrality, is enough to reverse the Trump administration.
A possible situation in Europe?
In Europe, as in the United States, net neutrality is a written rule that ISPs must respect. Since May 2016 on the Old Continent (October 2016 in France, in application of European law), net neutrality prevails. Except that, as recalls Benjamin Sonntag, co-founder of the association for the defense of rights and freedoms of citizens on the Internet La Quadrature du Net , if ” the European Union is relatively protective on the subject “, this is not engraved in marble. ” If the United States gives the La with the end of net neutrality, things could change in Europe, with the mutual political influence that there is on either side of the Atlantic, it is not uncommon to see American decisions become standards in Europe and vice versa, “he adds.
We will end up like on American highways with a fast lane and a slow lane. It’s against the neutrality of the Net, the spirit of the internet
Besides, the machine could already be running in Europe. With the development of the 5G network, which requires an open network and a huge field of action for operators so that the 5G can run at full speed, the German, British and French operators are putting pressure on the principle of Net Neutrality. European institutions. In a seven-page manifesto, written jointly by twenty or so industrial groups (including Orange) and sent to the European Commission, ” the telecom industry warns that the current Net Neutrality guidelines, as put forward by BEREC ( the European regulator of electronic communications), create significant uncertainties on the return on investment of 5G . ” With 5G, we may end up in situations where operators will say ‘Youtube does not pay enough so videos are slower’ for example, the same for subscribers’ plans. We will end up on American highways with a fast track and a slow track. This is contrary to the neutrality of the Net, to the spirit of the Internet, “concludes Bejamin Sonntag. The 5G is announced for 2020 but no doubt the debate is just beginning.