Published on December 19th, 2016 | by ryankapsar0
Policy and Games: What Trump May Mean for Title II Net Neutrality
Policy and Games is a look at tech policy and the gaming world. The views expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of KBMOD or any of its contributors.
It’s been a while since the FCC had passed rules to use Title II, which we wrote about over a year and a half ago, to treat the internet in the same manner as telephones. The expected results from a lot of technology policy media outlets, like Techdirt and Ars Technica, was that the FCC would begin a campaign of cracking down on both mergers of telecom companies and their policies around zero-rating; however, neither has happened.
Zero-rating is important for consumers of media like Twitch, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, as these will hit your data caps (which also violates true net neutrality) but X-Finity’s streaming service’s data will not count against your data cap if you are a Comcast subscriber. T-Mobile and AT&T are both pushing the boundary on these issues as well.
Despite the economic literature and academic research indicating that a true net neutral internet is best for innovation and economic growth, it is likely that under a Trump administration Title II rules would be rolled back. Trump believes that internet service providers should be able to run their networks however they feel best. This is in line with the general Republican or Libertarian belief that most or all regulation is bad.
Furthermore, Tom Wheeler, departing FCC Chair, points out that “the regulation will be provided by other rule makers and other countries who might be incented to make rules that benefit their companies and traditions.”
Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2014
This of course is a misunderstanding of what Net Neutrality actually does or ideally does. Net Neutrality, at its best, is a way to ensure that all data is treated exactly the same. Where no ISP can dictate if data from one site must pay more money for equal speed or access as another site. Basically, the goal is so that Google, Infowars, Wikileaks, and KBMOD have the exact same costs for sending data from their site to the end user. This is the point of Net Neutrality in its purest form.
In 2015, according to analysis performed by Huffington Post, Time Warner Cable had 97% profit margin on high speed internet. Expect this profit margin to increase. Much of the infrastructure for the internet already exists, except for the fiber last mile which is what Google, AT&T, and Century Link are currently deploying for gigabit internet. Since it already exists and there is excess capacity and data caps aren’t for managing network congestion, they are purely to extract more money from end users, expect more of them.
With data caps in place, gamers and streamers are likely to be a major target of these companies. Awesome services like multistre.am are going to chew through data caps, but that will make a tidy profit for companies like Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable) and Comcast.
The other area that will be impacted by the Trump administration is municipal broadband. Chattanooga, Tennessee is the poster child for successful municipal broadband and they have weathered a number of legal attacks from AT&T and other organizations. The FCC voted to provide the rights to municipalities to create their own broadband. The municipalities that vote for creating their own broadband only do so when there are market failures to provide broadband with speeds that allow residents to use services like Netflix. In the US only 37% of residents have access to 2 or more broadband providers, with 14% having no options for broadband (which is defined as 25 mbps or faster).
It is unlikely that the Trump administration’s FCC will continue to allow municipalities to provide broadband services. I expect that they will be required to sell to a private entity. That might not be all bad as Provo, Utah sold their services to Google Fiber to more effectively manage the services. However, with cases like Chattanooga where the agency that manages their broadband already has a great deal of experience managing telecom networks, it makes less sense to sell to a private entity. Ideally, more companies would come in to compete but they have yet to do so and Chattanooga remains a broadband provider.
To sum this up: we’ll see a rollback on Title II Net Neutrality. We’ll see a rollback on municipal broadband. We’ll also see an increase in the number of data caps, with the expansion of zero-rating to increase the usage of services provided by companies like Comcast and Spectrum looking to prevent cord cutters from shrinking their profit margins. I’m not looking forward to these changes and neither is my wallet.