Net Neutrality Faces Uncertain Future Under Trump Administration
Net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers should provide access to content and applications fairly, without preferential treatment for favored services (or services that favor the ISP's own pocket book), types of data, equipment used, and the like. The principle of net neutrality is widely considered an important policy, particularly to startups. As Netflix recently stated in a letter to shareholders, although the company isn't worried about the impact of a loss of net neutrality:
"On a public policy basis, however, strong net neutrality is important to support innovation and smaller firms. No one wants ISPs to decide what new and potentially disruptive services can operate over their networks, or to favor one service over another."
Under Tom Wheeler, the FCC has (surprisingly to some) taken a strong stance in favor of net neutrality and consumer protection. He set out his philosophy, in part, in a 2015 Wired essay. The incoming Trump administration has made it clear they intent to reverse that trend. FCC member Ajit Pai wants to "take a weed-whacker" to FCC regulations, including those surrounding net neutrality. This squares with broader deregulatory ambitions of the new administration.
While established players in the market should be able to weather the change in regulatory posture without difficulty, the loss of net neutrality is of great concern to startups and innovators in the industry. We have yet to see the scope of change the new administration will bring to this area, but there is already plenty of reason for internet startups to be concerned.