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Republicans ask Facebook, Google and Amazon to help dismantle net neutrality

Ajit Pai

House Republicans have decided enough is enough, inviting all the major players to the table to debate the future of net neutrality in the US, even if it has already made its mind up.

While it might seem like a mature move from the party, it should perhaps be considered as nothing more than a smoke-screen to make it look like an organization which is going through the correct channels. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his republican cronies have made it clear over the last couple of months that they wish to irradiate the rules, potentially paving the way for a two-tiered internet, but at least this way he gets to tell people he listened to both sides of the argument.

Pai and his republican pals must have been chuckling away over this email. The team has invited the telcos who are set to benefit from a change to net neutrality laws, but also thrown a sly dig into the equation, inviting those who are fighting tooth and nail to keep the rules, to help change them. Pai must be using all his energy to choke back giggles and obnoxious grins.

The list is long, and filled with all the expected names from the US telco and tech space. Alongside those who would want the rules removed, the likes of AT&T, Verizon and Charter, but the invitation has also been extended to Google, Facebook, Amazon and Netflix, amongst others, all of who benefit from the net neutrality proposition.

Maybe it’s a power play, maybe the republicans are bored this week or maybe it’s a prank. The OTTs turn up and all the telcos throw eggs at them and cover them in toilet paper. Or perhaps there is an inclination to listen to the promise of net neutrality. We seriously doubt the last one, but we have to appear to be fair at the very least. More than likely it is the done thing to do. Invite everyone let them put forward their argument, and then do what you are going to do any way.

It was only a couple of weeks ago all the internet players were championing the net neutrality cause in a day of action to drum up support for the rules. 80,000 websites took place in an online protest, including Facebook, Amazon and Google.

“Today, people and companies across the country are participating in a day of action to fight for net neutrality. Facebook is proud to be a part of it,” Facebook said. “Net neutrality means a free and open internet for everyone. It ensures that internet service providers are not allowed to block or throttle internet traffic or discriminate against certain content.”

“Notwithstanding the unbridled economic and innovative activity unleashed by the open Internet, the FCC is moving quickly through a rulemaking process to gut the core entrepreneurial and consumer protections that are the heart of the innovation economy,” Twitter said. “The FCC should abandon its misguided effort to obviate all the work that has been done on behalf of all Internet users.”

“Netflix will never outgrow the fight for #NetNeutrality. Everyone deserves an open Internet,” Netflix said on Twitter.

While the open internet has aided the development of some of the world’s most prominent technology companies, there is an argument for the two-tier internet. Telcos should in theory be given the opportunity to monetize the networks which they are spending so much cash to build. The OTTs are not contributing to the development of the physical infrastructure, but are benefiting so profitably from increased connectivity. They shouldn’t be held to ransom by the telcos who could essentially define their users’ experience, but surely there has to be a middle ground.

The telcos themselves have continuously promised they wouldn’t throttle the network, but of course, this promise is not worth the paper its been written on. If they are have no intention of using a two-tier internet system, why remove the rules that prevent it. Things change over the years, and before too long there will be some sort of justification to go down that route. They aren’t going back on their word of course, its market forces which has coerced them to do it. When there is a chance to make money, it will eventually be exploited. That is just human nature.

Unfortunately, it seems like a bit of a sick joke. If precedent is anything to go by, politicians rarely change their point of view. The OTTs are essentially being asked to turn up and to help tie their own noose.


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