ISPs Fulfilling Warnings About Gatekeeper Role
One of the arguments made by net neutrality proponents and dismissed by its opponents is that, absent some net neutrality regime, ISPs could discriminate against content or on any other basis to advance their economic interests. Just as Ars Technica’s Timothy Lee published an interesting piece that suggested that bandwidth caps being adopted by ISPs may be intended not only as a bandwidth management tool but also to prevent its users from “cutting the cord” – abandoning their television service in favor of content delivered by the internet. This theory was quickly given credence when it was reported that Hulu, which is owned by News Corp, NBC and Disney, intended to block access to certain content for users who did not subcribe to cable-tv. This gatekeeper role, was also cited by Sony in its decision to postpone streaming video via the web.
Net Neutrality proponents urged the Senate to investigate data caps, with IAC President Barry Diller urging Congress to stop ISPs “from leveraging their dominance in existing markets for video delivery to control emerging markets.”
The Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet rules, which would prevent discrimination by ISPs, is on appeal and will be heard by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sometime this year.
Activists were able to force a vote on net neutrality at the shareholder meetings of three major telecoms – AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. Not surprisingly the measures were handily defeated at AT&T and Verizon garnering ony 5.9 and 7.9 percent support respectively, while Sprint is set to vote next week. Advocates were satisfied with the result noting that by clearing the 3 percent threshold, the measures could be resubmitted next year.
The Netherlands has become the first European country and only the second in the world to pass a net neutrality law. The new Dutch law was spurred by a decision by Dutch network operator KPN to institute charges for using applications that competed with its own services. Chile passed net neutrality legislation in 2010.