US net neutrality is dead, long live net neutrality

Today is the day in the US when the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom order takes effect. It is the order which repeals the previous Open Internet Order of 2015, and reclassifies broadband as an information service rather than a telecoms service to keep it away from what the FCC calls “heavy-handed” regulation.

Luca Schiavoni, Senior Analyst at Assembly comments:

"The FCC’s ‘Restoring Internet Freedom’ order promises to set businesses free from unnecessary, heavy-handed regulation so that they can go back to investing, innovating, and making customers happy.

Except all might not go as planned, since individual states in the US are reacting to the repeal by passing their own rules, and a good amount of Congress members are keen to overturn the FCC’s ruling. In particular, the bill under discussion in California, which is by and large a refusal of the FCC’s provisions and a re-introduction of the previous ones, is a ticking time-bomb whose consequences are all but unpredictable. There is one thing surely worse than heavy-handed regulation: that thing is a patchwork of inconsistent rules, state-by-state. A nightmare for the telecoms and technology sector, which would face significant trouble in complying with different provisions across the US.

It’s easy to see why the FCC wants to abide by the very American principle that regulation is always bad. However, they cannot be content with simply repealing the Open Internet Order; they need to strengthen competition between ISPs, so that all those rules will not be needed for an open internet. It will be very long before that happens, in a country where most households cannot choose between more than two broadband providers if they want a 25Mbps connection or faster.

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Comments can be attributed to the relevant analyst at Assembly.

Assembly is an independent research firm focused on the analysis of regulatory, policy and legislative developments that affect communications markets and the wider digital economy.

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