The question of whether Net neutrality should be applied in Australia can be discuss with reference to the different attitudes of countries and technology companies on this issue. For example, to discuss weakness and advantages of Net neutrality based on the point of conflict between network users and network services providers in the United States. This essay will argue that although some disadvantages of neutral Internet systems have been pointed out, network neutrality is still required in Australia due to the consequences of promoting market competition, protection of network users on unfettered access, benefits for online learning and freedom of expression. The paper will also outline explanation and historical basis of Net neutrality, analysis of advantages of Net neutrality, and argument of why Net neutrality is applicable in Australia.
Explanation & Historical Basis of Net Neutrality
The term ‘Net Neutrality’ was proposed by Columbia University Law professor Tim Wu, which refers to an equity principle that requires Internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all data and information on the Internet in the same way, and are not allowed to discriminate or charge differently for different content that provided by different provider (Schaub, 2018).
Image of Columbia University Law professor Tim Wu, by stanfordcis. All rights reserved.
The idea of net neutrality comes from the Communications Act of 1934 in the United States. The conflict over net neutrality in the United States is ongoing and mainly concentrated between the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the ISPs. The dispute of net neutrality in the United States can be traced back to the Obama administration in 2010 when FCC released the “Net Neutrality Rules”, which introduces a strong net neutrality protection through limitation on ISPs that could not block websites or impose limits on users. A few weeks later, Verizon Communications filed a federal lawsuit and eventually overturn the order. President Obama calls on the FCC to adopt strong rules to protect net neutrality again in 2014, and finally FCC voted for net neutrality rules in 2015. The rule reclassified broadband ISPs as ‘telecommunications service’ under authority of the Communications Act of 1934, which gives FCC the significant ability to regulate ISPs (Schaub, 2018).
With Donald Trump as President in 2017, the FCC repealed the 2015 net neutrality rules and reclassified Internet services as Title I information services (Federal Communications Commission, 2018), that ISPs are no longer regulated as public utilities and have the ability to free blocking or throttling Internet traffic (Schaub, 2018). FCC Chairman Pai (2018) argued that this change was necessary due to the 2015 net neutrality rule prevented the communication infrastructure and innovation and placed a heavy burden on telecommunications service company.
Promote market competition
Net neutrality can provide the Internet industry a fair and equal competition environment, especially in ensuring small startups not being squeezed by large ISPs companies through slowing down connections speed due to the lack of funds. If there is no net neutrality, large companies can pay ISPs an extra fee to gain a faster preferential treatment such as improving network access speed, in order to gain competitive advantage through attract more consumer. This will make small startups lose market competitiveness. Perri (2018) provides an example, that telecommunications service company such as Verizon or Comcast can charge technology companies for faster access to users if there is no net neutrality, large companies such as YouTube or Amazon will gain competitive advantages due to big funding basis while small companies cannot afford to compete with. As USA TODAY reported, the Associated Press questioned seven major internet providers include Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Sprint and T-Mobile about their plan after net neutrality repeal, none of them rule out the possibility of establishing fast and slow lane (Arbel, 2018). Schaub (2018) argued that there is no indication that net neutrality repeal of the United States in 2017 promotes competitions between SIPs in the US market. Therefore, applying Net neutrality can promote free market competition and innovation. It can also enable Australian local companies to gain more competitive advantages in today’s environment where the US companies occupy most of the market.
Protection of Consumers Rights
Not only can net neutrality protect small companies from ISPs’ charges, but also protect consumers from paying higher fee for contents. Without net neutrality, ISPs have the power of content pricing through the ‘internet fast lanes’ which Arbel (2018) noted on USA Today. Schaub (2018) noted if there is no net neutrality, ISPs can manage which online content and services that most users can access, and which content and services are only available for users who are willing to pay additional fee on the basis of tiered pricing. On this basis, the development motivation of the Internet industry would be Internet providers rather than consumers, determination succeed or fail will be profit-oriented choices of corporations rather than users’ choice (Quail & Larabie, 2010). Users of low socioeconomic status cannot get access of full Internet content and furtherly exacerbate socioeconomic differences (Schaub, 2018). Thus, from the perspective of consumers in Australia, applying net neutrality can weaken ISPs power of charging from consumers and protect consumers’ right from paying extra fee to the access for contents and services.
Keep the Internet Free. Image: FCC set the Internet Free, by Stephen D. Melkisethian. All rights reserved.
Due to the widespread of online learning and surge increase of distance education course/program during the last few decades, issue of net neutrality has attracted growing scholarly attention. The rapid development of online education is credit to a relatively equal access to Internet permissions (Yamagata -Lynch, Despande, Garty, Mastrogiovanni & Teague, 2017).
Image:”Online Learning” by leanforward_photos. Some rights reserved.
The loss of network neutrality may result in educational libraries must not only pay additional fees on contents for students, but also must pay for the use of broadband for specific data sharing (Cook, 2014). If net neutrality is not maintained, learners may face the problem of structural inequalities, which have negative implication for their access on gaining digital information (Yamagata -Lynch et al., 2017). Therefore, as Australia has always been committed in developing online education and attract students from all over the world, net neutrality should be implemented in the country.
Freedom of Expression
Net neutrality can preserve freedom of expression that any website or blog or news service are allowed in the Internet as long as the information is legal. Without net neutrality, ISPs can theoretically block the access to contents which do not want users to see, for instance information from their competitors. On this basis, users may not get the primary content instead of a secondary filtered content. From the other position, applying net neutrality not only offer citizen freedom of access on Internet contents, but also provide citizens the freedom of expression online, that speech or talk of users will not be blocked. President Obama (The White House Office of the Press Secretary, 2014) stated that cutting the cost of new ideas and new political movement is one of the most significant democratizing influences of open Internet. Australia has always been committed to building a democratic society, in order to preserve citizens’ freedom of speech to the greatest extent, net neutrality should be applied.
To sum up, there are four main positive influence if net neutrality is applied in Australia. Firstly, Australian local companies will gain competitive advantages with US large corporations through promoting market competition. Secondly, rights of Australian network consumers can be protected better through avoiding additional fee for contents. Thirdly, applying net neutrality can provide a better online learning environment for Australia who have always been committed in developing online education. Finally, net neutrality is a significant way to achieve freedom of expression of Internet. Therefore, net neutrality is applicable in Australia.
Arbel, T. (2018). After net neutrality, brace for Internet ‘fast lanes’. USA TODAY. Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/12/20/after-net-neutrality-brace-internet-fast-lanes/970712001/
Cook, V. S. (2014). Net neutrality: What is it and why should educators care? Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 80(4), 46-49. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.usyd.edu.au/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy2.library.usyd.edu.au/docview/1552711307?accountid=14757
Federal Communications Commission, (2018). Restoring Internet freedom. Washington, DC: US Government. Retrieved from: https://www.fcc.gov/restoring-internet-freedom
Pai, A. (2018). The FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order [Video File]. Federal Communications Commission, YouTube. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/SCYztq0ua3Y
Obama, B. (2014). President Obama’s Statement on Keeping the Internet Open and Free [Video File]. The Obama White House, YouTube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKcjQPVwfDk
Perri, J. (2018). BUILDING A MOVEMENT FOR NET NEUTRALITY. Sur International Journal on Human Rights, 15(27), 51. Retrieved from: http://ezproxy.library.usyd.edu.au/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy2.library.usyd.edu.au/docview/2161599876?accountid=14757
Quail, C., & Larabie, C. (2010). Net neutrality: Media discourses and public perception. Global Media Journal, 3(1), 31-n/a. Retrieved from: http://ezproxy.library.usyd.edu.au/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy2.library.usyd.edu.au/docview/888154749?accountid=14757
Schaub, F. (2018). The implications of the FCC’s net neutrality repeal. Media and Communication, 6(3), 69-72. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy2.library.usyd.edu.au/10.17645/mac.v6i3.1560
The White House Office of the Press Secretary, (2014). Statement by the President on Net Neutrality. Retrieved from: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2014/11/10/statement-president-net-neutrality
The White House President Black Obama, (2016). Net Neutrality. President Obama’s Plan for a Free and Open Internet. Retrieved from: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/net-neutrality
Yamagata-Lynch, L., Despande, D. R., Do, J., Garty, E., Mastrogiovanni, J. M., & Teague, S. J. (2017). Net neutrality and its implications to online learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(6) Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.usyd.edu.au/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy2.library.usyd.edu.au/docview/1970514774?accountid=14757