Net neutrality moves up the agenda

Charice Wang/Ovum
Telecom Asia

Regulations on network neutrality will likely be slowly imposed in many countries. Operators should look to prevent unworkable rules from being introduced

The core principle of net neutrality is the preservation of an open internet for content, application and service providers, with no blocking or unfair discrimination by access providers. Nevertheless, the precise definitions of net neutrality are rather vague across the world and the principles of net neutrality proposed by the regulators differ even more between countries.

We see the common aim of these principles as being the protection of customers and the promotion of fair competition between services that are provided over the network. Regulators are particularly keen to prevent broadband providers, including both telcos and cable companies, from favoring their own content and service applications over their competitors'.

Nevertheless, the regulators' different principles lead to diverse regulatory approaches in this area.

The US is leading the pack with a strong push to impose net neutrality, with the FCC's six principles proposed at the end of 2009 including non-discrimination, the need for transparency, and four open internet principles intended to ensure consumers can access the lawful internet content, applications, and services of their choice.

The last year has seen the debate on net neutrality move from the US to most developed markets, including Europe, Japan and Canada. More national regulatory authorities (NRAs) outside of the EU and North America are likely to become tied down in the debate this year.

At the heart of the argument is whether there should be a principle of non-discrimination for different forms of internet traffic being carried across networks. It mainly focuses on how data is distributed on the internet, whether using a tiered approach or treating all traffic equally. Generally speaking, there are two sets of players with competing views that strongly disagree with each other.

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