Net Neutrality – Is regulation really the answer to protect consumers and businesses from bandwidth throttling and broadband manipulation of internet protocols? Rob Ford, the corporate governance and change management expert tells us more

net neutrality ruling

Rob Ford, the corporate governance and change management expert tells us more on net neutrality

Corporate governance and change management experts use technology and good governance processes. An extract of this article is available from Gulf News online (at bottom of page) and was published in full in hard copy.

Back in 2003, Tim Wu coined a new phrase “net neutrality”, when he identified the discrimination by broadband and telecommunication companies who used to practice biased services to consumers and corporates. Moreover these are based on the type of data being transferred from the host to the user.  Net neutrality is the unbiased delivery of packets of data over IPv4, being the main internet protocol (IP) for the transfer of information through the web. In 2015, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was authorised by Congress to regulate internet rules to ensure that all web traffic. Also this requires information transmitted by broadband providers is treated equally for all users, as per set policies. The FCC ruled in favour of the reclassification of broadband services in the same way utilities are regulated on a common carrier basis. Internet Service Providers are restricted in the practice of bandwidth throttling, being the limiting of user bandwidth for users for video streaming, peer to peer file sharing through Bit Torrents, FaceTime and VoIP (the transmission of voice and media over IP networks).

Rolling back the internet rules of net neutrality

The new Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, wants to roll back the internet rules of net neutrality. These rules are set out under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 706 of the Telecommunications act of 1996. The FCC has put forward a proposal entitled “Restoring Internet Freedom” to remove the net neutrality regulations for the internet. You may ask yourself, ‘why is this important to me and how will such regulation affect you?’.  In short, there are mixed views on what the relaxing of such regulations may have on commerce, consumers and innovation of the broadband ecosystem.

Relaxing the rules could result in inequality and poor corporate governance practices

If these regulations are relaxed or removed there could be restrictions levied on consumers through higher charges, to access social media, online services, independent news content and video streaming services. Some of the on-line companies such as Facebook, Netflix, eBay, Amazon, Twitter and Tumblr could be adversely affected under the new FCC proposal. Additional charges for quality services and high data transmissions, through premium pipelines for fast data transfer, would likely be passed on to businesses and consumers alike. This in turn may create a hierarchy of internet services and fees for corporates and consumers.

What was the purpose of net neutrality?

The whole purpose of the internet was to provide everyone with unfettered access to online information and the transmission of information and data.  The Internet Association encourages innovation, economic growth and empowerment of people through the free and open internet. Any internet restrictions or controls of internet data package transmission speeds in the US would likely impact us all as many the social media, online or cloud services have their servers based there.

Regulation is good and bad – should net neutrality be removed?

My view of the FCC’s proposal is mixed, on the one hand I see that they want broadband and telecommunication companies to self-regulate. In addition hand they want to encourage further investment and development of internet infrastructure, through the funding of premium internet services. Also, this could provide a competitive edge and raise additional taxes for the US economy.

Impact on low-income families and students

Unfortunately the proposal could negatively affect the ability of low income families and students to access information and connect with others through free VoIP services, both in the US and globally.  I am for regulation, as long as it is in the best interest of society and economies. The FCC’s proposal for the reversal of the net neutrality is likely to be more advantageous to the larger corporates. However, it would impact smaller innovative web content producers and lower income consumers. A level playing field would allow an equal opportunity for businesses to succeed through the same infrastructure as large corporates.

Have your say on net neutrality

My suggestion for small technology businesses and online retailers would be to try and mitigate their IT risk and stay abreast of the proposed US changes. The first round of public comments is now closed and the FCC will provide their formal response by August 16th. If you want to have your voice heard make your public comment on the FCC’s website where over 8.7 million comments have been left already.

Good governance and equal access to the internet for all

In addition, should we go for regulations or on the other hand ask organisations to follow a principles based approach? Often times, regulations are required to provide a level playing field but they can also cost businesses. Comply or explain is sometimes more effective as it allows businesses to scale and develop the right corporate governance policies. Good governance is vital for sustainability, transparency and accountability.

Note on the author:

Rob Ford is the Executive Director of Governance Gurus. They provide Business consulting on corporate governance and change management. In addition they provide IT Consulting services and training masterclasses and workshops. Trainings cover corporate governance, director duties, the role of the company secretary and change management. Also Governance Gurus provide training on corporate culture and leadership development.

Projects using technology and considering corporate governance processes

Rob is passionate about change management and the use of information technology (IT) for innovation. He also advises on how to protect the privacy of individuals and businesses. See his blog on GDPR and impact on GCC corporate governance practices. He holds a master’s degree in Leading Innovation and Change. He lead two major change management projects. One for an international law firm and also for a big 4 consulting firm.  Each project used technology to improve efficiency and quality. This was achieved through good governance and cloud-based software. These projects used technology for multi-jurisdictional and virtual team co-ordination for regional services.