Friday 2 February 2018


Net Neutrality is dead. Long live Net Neutrality!

Our dear readers are probably by now aware that the United States Federal Communication Commission (FCC) voted (along party lines, incidentally) to end net neutrality rules put in place during the Obama presidency. See here, for example.

The decision was highly controversial, with over 20 million comments submitted during the public comment period. Most executive branch actions in the US attract far less interest. There are, however, reports that a large percentage of those comments were "fake" - e.g., not from verifiable sources or from duplicate sources.

Given that the US is a major driving force behind worldwide internet policy, does this decision mean the end of net neutrality as we know it?  Not so fast!  There may be hope yet.

Much of the governmental structure in the US is devolved to the individual States, and states can often direct national policy if they act with some degree of unity. It was with great interest to this blogger, then, when certain states began pushing back on the decision of the FCC. For example, in January, six states (including, not surprisingly, California and New York) introduced bills into the state legislatures that would require net neutrality for operators and activities in those states. In addition, the attorneys general from 22 states have sued the FCC to block the change in the net neutrality rules.

What would happen if, say, California (with a population of 40 million people and a "GDP" of $2.5 trillion, which would make it the 8th largest economy in the world if it were a country) passes a net neutrality law?  It is likely possible (technologically speaking) to have different positions on net neutrality in different states, but is such a situation politically or socially acceptable? Does the adage "as California goes, so goes the US" apply here?

California leads the nation in other areas such as climate change mitigation policy and petrol consumption standards, so it is not hard to imagine that the national rules on net neutrality may be dictated to a large degree by the actions of California legislators.

2017 saw the death of net neutrality. But 2018 will see quite a fight for its rebirth!  We will be watching this space closely...



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