This week, the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) repealed a US legislation that made it mandatory for American telecom operators to respect the principle of neutrality of the networks, called “net neutrality”. By this vote, the FCC allows Internet access providers to no longer ensure an equality of treatment of all the various communications sollicited by their suscribers. They will be able to choose which communication will be slower than others, and will be able to require payments from service providers who just want their users to experience a normal, non-degraded quality of service.
This is very serious.
The issue can look technical, but it raises fundamental democratic principles that are easy to understand.
No one owns the Internet, and especially not the telecom operators who are mere servants. The job of a telecom operator is to make sure that the person who wants to communicate can do so, it is not to choose who can speak louder or faster than someone else. If you allow telecom operators to pick who can communicate normally on the network, and who can only communicate in artificially degraded conditions, it is purely and simply the freedom of expression and communication that is undermined.
It is also the freedom to innovate and to choose freely the services that we use. The history of the Internet is filled with inventions of new services that allow Internet users to access information and share it. But, if tomorrow the wealthy actors who are already in a dominant position gain a favored quality of service on the network, the new and alternative services will suffer. Users won’t choose freely their services anymore, but will be constrained by the choices made by their operator.
Qwant, who has always been a defender of a neutral Internet, respectful of fundamental rights, calls the European Internet community to make net neutrality in Europe an absolute golden rule. It is imperative that this principle be viewed as having constitutional value, and be respected as such. Europe must set an example for the world, and resist the pressure that will certainly intensify.