Last week Burger King’s Facebook page launched the below campaign to raise awareness about net neutrality and the US Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) move to repeal it.
Is an act that doesn’t allow ISPs (Internet Service Provider) to throttle or block access to the internet (content or services) based on preferential rates.
Why does this matter? If an ISP decides to create multiple lanes for web access it will give faster access to service providers that pay them a premium to reach consumer. Better visualized in the image below:
From the U.S. to the world
The US would be hurting the domestic growth potential by repealing net neutrality. Today a service like Verizon has their own VOD service that competes with Netflix’s, if they were to slow the access to Netflix via their connection to favor their own service, they would be not only be creating unfair competition but driving a local company to prefer focusing on international growth where the competition is not so skewed.
Netflix and global businesses have servers across the world to better service their international consumers, which would surpass the US net neutrality repeal.
Beyond the U.S.
The European Union does have a net neutrality law (not without cracks in the system though). China is infamous for it’s great firewall, the extreme opposite of net neutrality, managed by the government and only allowing local services to operate under surveillance. China has also recently demanded for international services to host the servers serving the Chinese market locally. India has a very aggressive strategy on net neutrality that is expected to go into affect in 2018; telecom’s have been banned from preferential access in 2015.
It’s important to note that while Facebook opposes the net neutrality repeal, they are proactively practicing the opposite. Facebook-Zero is a service that allows users in some countries to access a light version of facebook’s feed free of charge (preferential treatment). In India Facebook-Zero has been blocked due to it’s discriminatory access.
Which brings us to the MENA region. While there’s no Net Neutrality act in place in any of the countries, many ISPs and telecom operators are stillcoming to terms with the rapid loss of returns from calls and move to data consumption. That being said, Google services and Skype have been reported to be slower than usually in multiple countries of the GCC and Levant. Something that the providers (when cornered) claim is done because such services consumer a lot of bandwidth, usually followed by: “we don’t want you to finish you data packages” or “the available bandwidth capacity would suffer”.
As the digital space grows and internet access because a vital element for smarter cities, connected cars, homes and classrooms. Providers are also investing more into startups and complimentary services (expanding portfolios) and there are increasingly more reasons why they’d play favorites. If a telecom provider invests in a video-on-demand service, what stops them from throttling competing services. Today, nothing.
The need for a clear policy on net neutrality in middle east and north africa region has become evident. However with internet infrastructure providers across the region so tightly knitted with the public sector, will we see one soon?
P.S. The last time I ate at Burger King was at least 10 years ago, something in their food just doesn’t get along so well with me.
This post originally appeared on Medium on Jan 30, 2018