In this essay, critical thinking about whether net neutrality concept should be applied or should not be applied in the Australian context since no current or proposed legislation in Australia attempts to enforce net neutrality. Based on the analysis from politics, economics and cultures of the internet, I will argue that although net neutrality brings some benefits to the network industry. For instance, the public will not be forced to accept information. Net neutrality has little influence on Australia market compare to the United States. Popular content providers, such as ABC’s iView, are not restricted to ISPs and are ready to roll out several new video-streaming services without causing network neutrality.
Let us have a look of the following video which explained what is net neutrality.
Explanation and historical background of Net Neutrality
Net neutrality, in briefly, requires internet service providers (ISPs) and government as ‘dumb pipes’, all uses are treated equally, and the data they transmit cannot interfere. (Gilroy, Angele, 2011) In Western countries, especially in America, ISPs are not obligated to build public infrastructure, buy to pay for their profits and losses by themselves. As Google and Netflix those kind of technology companies developed so fast, they have to pay extra bills for the bandwidth resources, otherwise their transmission speed will be reduced by operators. (Stevenson, 2014) In order to make sure the higher speed and the well quality for playback with the high definition (HD). Internet companies had to pay a vast connection fees. To prevent small internet companies from this business model, the concept of net neutrality has occurred.
The word’ net neutrality’ was coined by Tim Wu (2003) in a essay which focus on online discrimination, some broadband providers including Comcast ban the consumers from using virtual private networks (VPNs) and setting up their own Wi-Fi routs. In 2005, the North Carolina service provider Madison River Company was discovered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and ceased its telephone communication service business. In 2008, the FCC ordered Comcast to stop throttling BitTorrent connections on its network. Comcast denies throttling but sues the FCC, successfully arguing that Comcast could slow down connections if it wanted to. In 2015, FCC applied for net neutrality command, reduce the priority of internet traffic congestion processing. However, only release broadband providers after two years to block or restrict the content liberty. (Finley, 2020)
the following is the timeline of the net neutrality
(Timeline of the net neutrality issues, NCTA, All rights reserved)
Net neutrality supporters
The debate about net neutrality has divided the industry into two camps. The advocates most are human rights organisation. Net neutrality illustrated that all information and resources should be treated equally. This also means fee neutrality. Large technology companies charge more flat fees, which is conducive to healthy competition in the whole market. Unlike in the United States, broadband plans generally have no restrictions on data traffic. In Australia, the cost of network usage is usually determined by data traffic, which means that NSPs and ISPs can limit usage (or increase revenue as usage increases) through price. For customers, they can compare different types of data plans from different companies such as Optus, Telstra and Vodafone. This means they can spend less and get better services since they have more options. (Hoffman, 2014) Based on researches, on 1st January 2011, the Australian government had promulgated a policy statement which was called National Broadband Network (NBN) policy. (Manwaring, 2010) These networks companies should based on the technical conditions and make the environment is an access for public. roll-out of fiber by subcontractors or other companies in such development will be allowed. Telstra are set to perform as the retail provider to provide measurable telephone service to end-users in new development areas where no other service provider provides retail services. Since the new development for the fibre network, Telstra could provide pay-TV services as an extension of its HFC network. However, this policy increases cost of housing as buyers of new homes will be forced to bear the cost of installing fibre connections. The cost of making fibre optic cables is high, making it more expensive for many people to buy a home. (Manwaring, 2010)
(Telstra’s Data plans, EmeLou, All rights reserved)
Another reason for support net neutrality may cause some discrimination issues. If ISPs are allowed to charge from their providers, then paid content will be given priority to the public, and even some content will disappear because they don’t pay for it. This means ISPs directly interfere with online content, freedom of expression and people’s right to choose their information. There are some examples of discriminatory practices in America (although Australia does not yet have them).
By contrast, the arguments of the opponents are equally reasonable. The inevitable result of net neutrality regulation is the lack of investment and innovations. Content developers who have commonly relied on non-discriminatory approach to customers, have no fees other than their delivery costs, so there is little incentive for content and application innovation. (Manwaring, 2010) No profit means no competitions and no innovation among those companies. Due to the net neutrality regulation, the investment dried up in fixed broadband, especially Australia lags in international comparisons. (McLaren, 2015) Government intervention with utility-style regulation could lead to a drought in investment, a view Shared by big broadband providers such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T in the US. (McLaren, 2015) If utility-style regulations become the norm for broadband service providers, they threaten to slow or halt investment in fibre-optic networks. The lack of investment had already occurred in Australia. In order to address this vulnerability in Australia, in 2009, the Australian government has set up its own telecommunications company, NBN Co, to build a national broadband network. (McLaren, 2015)
Moreover, net neutrality policy may limit or even ban discrimination, while some forms of discrimination are beneficial to online customers. Discrimination can also be used to improve security, improve the quality of services (QOS), ad-measure resources to those most in need. (Peha, 2006) Although sometimes discriminatory practices are likely to be motivated not by the desire or reduce competition, that to improve customer service by a genuine desire. In the discriminatory regimes, each ISP provides CP with a priority channel and a non-priority channel. (Bourreau et al., 2015) When traffic usage beyond even the network’s capacity, some things get delayed. Allow network preference when selecting deferred content. For example, traffic from a patient’s heart monitor would surely outweigh the music downloads. (Manwaring, 2010) There is discrimination in identifying different needs and values for different content. However, the relationship of an NSP or ISP and the source of content is neutrality. The discrimination which mentioned here can release value in the network and improve network performance to users without causing competition problems. It can be said to be competitive. (Hoffman, 2014)
After doing a vast amount of the researches about net neutrality, Australia seems as not so affected by net neutrality. However, in 2013, Telstra was experimenting with new ways to manage its broadband network. (Hoffman, 2014) The ACCC said it looks at whether ISPs controlled their network traffic to affect their content rather than other content. Nevertheless, another review said that network neutrality issues cannot prevent competition by ACCC’s powers since it has the limited authority to address it. Therefore, the recommended that the NBN should be reviewed whether should net neutrality should be applied or not once it is implemented.
In Australia, much of the discussion has focused on price and market regulation, considering all these factors, we may reasonably conclude that net neutrality is not an issue in Australia. Since Australia has mostly avoided the unfairness that comes with net neutrality because our market has accepted the principle of user pay for Internet content. Internet plans are primarily priced based on the amount of data or capacity that can be downloaded per month. This is not the case in the United States and many other markets, where fixed-price plans for fixed broadband services are mostly independent of the data downloaded.
Bourreau, M., Kourandi, F., & Valletti, T. (2015). Net Neutrality with Competing Internet Platforms. Journal of Industrial Economics, 63(1), pp. 30–73. https://doi.org/10.1111/joie.12068
EmeLou (2019). Telstra Pre-Paid Data Pass II – Important Information dara plan. [image] Available at:https://crowdsupport.telstra.com.au/t5/accounts-plans/telstra-pre-paid-data-pass-ii-important-information/ta-p/813043
Finley, K. (4 May 2020). The Wired guide to Net Neutrality. Retrieved from: https://www.wired.com/story/guide-net-neutrality/
Hoffman, G. (2014, April 24). Net neutrality – are developments in the US and Europe a sign of things to come for Australia? Mondaq Business Briefing.
Manwaring, K. (2010). Network neutrality: Issues for Australia. The Computer Law and Security Report, 26(6), 630–639. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clsr.2010.09.004
McLaren, G. (6 March 2015). Net Neutrality-Why the US can learn from Australia. Retrieved from:https://www.mclarenwilliams.com.au/net-neutrality-what-the-us-can-learn-from-australia/
Ncta (2015)Net neutrality timeline: Where we are & how we got here. [image] Available at:https://www.ncta.com/positions/net-neutrality-timeline-where-we-are-how-we-got-here-0
Peha, J. M. (2006, August). The benefits and risks of mandating network neutrality, and the quest for a balanced policy. TPRC.
Stevenson, J. H. (2014, August). The Master Switch and the Hyper Giant: Google’s Infrastructure and Network Neutrality Strategy in the 2000s. In 2014 TPRC Conference Paper.
The Wall Street Journal (2014). Net neutrality explained. Available at :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p90McT24Z6w&t=71s [Accessed 25 Oct. 2020].