Following the announcement that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote of a draft order to roll back net neutrality rules at its December meeting, Internet companies and startups in the US have expressed disagreement with the plan. Facebook stated its disappointment that the proposed order ‘fails to maintain the strong net neutrality protections that will ensure the internet remains open for everyone’, also noting that it will work together ‘with all stakeholders committed to this principle’. Google said that the existing net neutrality rules ‘are working well’, a view which was also shared by Netflix. At the same time, a group of 1000 small companies sent a letter to the FCC stating their concern and noting that ‘without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market’.
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.