Net Neutrality Lessons from the US

The Net Neutrality debate is moving fast in the US as a result of a recent clash between the Fox network and Cablevision, a cable provider. Fox and Cablevision are in dispute over fees that Cablevision pays to Fox. The argument reached new levels when Fox pulled its content feed from Cablevision subscribers who use the Internet and cable tv services. Though the dispute is ongoing, the issue may be resolved in time for the World Series next week; however net neutrality proponents are now calling for greater regulation than ever.


As one commentator put it, Fox pulled its own content which was created and paid for by Fox themselves owing to a disagreement in broadcasting rights. That content was available online and on TV until Fox removed the accessibility of the content from Cablevision subscriber because it claims that Cablevision won’t pay an increased amount for the content.


What ever does this have to do with Net Neutrality? The fact is nothing. Large content providers and large ISPs do have disagreements from time to time over the terms of their contracts. This particular disagreement was taken to an extreme level and one does not normally see this kind of action in business, but it happened none the less. Net neutrality proponents don’t see the very fact that this is a business issue and not a regulation issue. More government regulation would not solve this dispute, but would make the US less free. What right does the Federal Communication Commission have to regulate who and how privately created content is delivered and paid for? Creating Net Neutrality regulation that would, in effect, force Fox to always deliver its content means that the government is meddling in industry practice and not ‘equalizing’ the traffic on the Internet.


We are fortunate in the UK in that Ofcom has decided that paid prioritisation offers the ability to provide for even better customer service and competition, and not less as Net Neutrality proponents advocate. Ofcom went on to say that regulations out rightly banning this process are “unlikely to lead to efficient market outcomes.” (For an excellent post on this issue, see Is the FCC More European than Europe by our friends in the US) And to that end TalkTalk is developing new infrastructure to deal with future YouView content delivery at a cost to themselves for a better customer experience.


We await the results of the EU’s consultation on Net Neutrality due out towards the end of the year.  In the meantime as the Net Neutrality debate heats up over in the US and comes at a time when emotions are running high just in advance of the midterm elections next week, don’t believe everything you hear about it. UK legislation on Net Neutrality – or rather further government regulation on the Internet – is not a great way to incentivise private industry to continue to invest in the UK’s digital future.

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