In the wake of the US Government unwinding net neutrality rules, InternetNZ has warned that vigilance is needed in New Zealand to ensure links between large ISPs and online media companies do not compromise the open Internet in New Zealand.
The US Federal Communications Commission has approved a measure to remove net neutrality rules it put in place two years ago that prevented ISPs from blocking and throttling traffic and offering paid fast lanes. They also classified Internet providers as Title II common carriers, giving the measure strong legal backing.
The FCC commissioners have just passed by a 3 to 2 majority a decision to und the rule. Writing in The Guardian just ahead of the vote, dissenting commissioner Mignon Clyburn described the decision as “incredibly problematic for the American people.”
“What is at stake is the ability of consumers and businesses to reach the online applications and services of their choosing without interference from their broadband provide,” she said.
“This has been a bipartisan bedrock principle in America for more than a decade, it was upheld in court last year, and it has existed all the while investment by broadband providers continues to grow.”
InternetNZ CEO Jordan Carter said the US developments could directly affect New Zealanders “because many of the services we use online have been developed in America, [so] what is bad for the Internet there is bad for us all.”
He said the market issues making network neutrality a pressing issue in the US were not present in New Zealand, but warned that things could change.
“In particular the fact that Chorus, provider of most broadband Internet infrastructure, does not offer retail ISP service and has no deals with content providers gives a layer of security to Kiwi Internet users,” Carter said.
“Until recently there haven’t been close links between big ISPs and big media or content companies. It is fortuitous that our local market is set up in this way, and has largely avoided the worst risks to a neutral Internet, but we should not take it for granted that this will always be the case without work to keep it that way.
“We keep a sharp eye on the net neutrality situation here in New Zealand, and speak out when the open Internet is put at risk.”
• New Zealand this year came very close having tight links between a big ISP and a big media company when Vodafone NZ and Sky TV tried to merge. The Commerce Commission blocked the deal on the grounds that the merged entity would continue to control the rights to premium live sports content, and that the nexus between this content, and Internet access services would strengthen.