Essential tech platforms should be regulated like utilities - White House advisor

27 Jul 2017

White House advisor Steve Bannon believes that essential tech platforms such as Facebook and Google should be regulated as utilities. Speaking anonymously to The Intercept, three sources close to Brannon said that the advisor believes that Facebook and Google have become a necessity in contemporary life. Regulating them as utilities would mean that they are more tightly regulated in what the platforms are able to do and which prices they are able to charge. The plan is akin to the FCC’s order that already regulates Internet service providers as utilities - an order which the Trump administration is seeking to reverse.

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The Internet’s success lies in its design, which is based on the principle of net neutrality. From the outset, the flow of all the content on the Internet was treated without discrimination. New entrepreneurs did not need permission or market power to innovate on the Internet. With the development of new digital services, especially the ones consuming high bandwidth such as high-quality video streaming, some Internet operators (telecom companies and ISPs) started prioritising certain traffic – such as their own services or the services of their business partners – based on business needs and plans, justifying such an approach with a need to raise funds to further invest in the network. Net neutrality proponents strongly fight back such plans arguing this could limit open access to information and online freedoms, and stifle online innovation.

Intermediaries play a vital role in ensuring Internet functionality. In several Internet governance areas, such as copyright infringement and spam, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are considered key online intermediaries. In other areas, such as defamation and the so-called right to be forgotten, the responsibility extends to hosts of online content and search engines.

The concept of global public goods can be linked to many aspects of Internet governance. The most direct connections are found in areas of access to the Internet infrastructure, protection of knowledge developed through Internet interaction, protection of public technical standards, and access to online education.

 

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