The future of net neutrality and Open Internet Rules face uncertainty under Trump's presidency.
With the announcement in November that the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is planning on repealing Obama-era net neutrality rules, the fight for the future of the internet has kicked into high gear.
Network neutrality, a cornerstone of the open internet, is a concept that lawful data should be treated and priced equally irrespective of the provider or device the user chooses to access it on. The debate around advantages and downsides of net neutrality comes down to a few key arguments.
Argument for: Equal access
Advocates for net neutrality view the internet as an invention, platform and repository of information that should be equally accessible to anyone, much like electricity, water and other utilities. The broad ideological vision behind the concept is that popularization of net neutrality could serve as one of the tools to support the advancement of human society and promote democratic discussion. More practical approach includes support of fair pricing for users and equal market conditions for providers of internet services and applications by prohibiting Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to discriminate them.
Argument against: Speed costs money
The argument against the concept is that infrastructure needed to provide internet access requires significant investments from ISPs and other members of the ecosystem. These investments lead to the difference in costs imposed on data access. Some argue that charging a premium for faster fixed or mobile broadband access could help commercial providers cover current costs and invest in future innovation and development of infrastructure.
The term “Net Neutrality” was introduced in 2003 by Columbia Law School Professor Tim Wu. In February 2015, United States Federal Communications Commission adopted a set of Open Internet Rules prohibiting ISPs from blocking, throttling or creating premium priced fast lanes for accessing internet services, content and applications. The Open Internet Rules also obliged providers to follow strict consumer transparency requirements by establishing a legal benchmark.
The report released by Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in November 2016 analyzes Trump’s position on technology and innovation policy. It highlights his generally conservative approach to reducing business taxes and regulations, as well as supporting “homeland security with potential effects on weakening encryption”, both of which probably create concern about the future of Open Internet under his presidency. His highly-cited and probably only public statement on the topic is a Tweet dated November 2014, that reads: "Obama's attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media." A confusing statement, given that net neutrality implies all media would have equal access.
With Trump's FCC Chairman making it clear that the President is ready and excited to dismantle the regulations, all signs are pointing toward a swift death. The only hope for the current regulations to stay in place is an outpouring of support for Net Neutrality. It remains to be seen what fate awaits the regulation. To put things in perspective, here's a brief history of Net Neutrality.