Nobody is Neutral about Net Neutrality

Based on a review of several hundred IT analyst blog posts and tweets during the first quarter of 2015, it is clear that sentiment in the analyst community about FCC-legislated “net neutrality” is overwhelmingly negative. Furthermore, expectations of rampant legal challenges to the FCC’s Open Internet Order are universal.

While mainstream media coverage has portrayed the net neutrality issue as largely political – Democrats for, Republicans opposed – analyst commentary has acknowledged the politics but focused more intensely on the potential negative impacts of such an approach on the evolution of Web-based services and the online communications business generally.

During the 90 day period Jan. 1-Mar. 31, 2015, there were 119 blog posts (by analysts at 16 firms) and 110 tweets (by 24 analysts) on the topic:

 

Concerns over the possible ripple effects of FCC-regulated net neutrality are wide-spread. In a post in The Daily Caller provocatively entitled “Unnecessary Collateral Damage from FCC Title II Internet Regulation,” Scott Cleland of research firm Precursor wrote, “Are any apps that involve telecommunications of any kind, such as instant messaging, VoIP, or video communications etc., Title II telecommunications as well?… Under Title II Section 207 most everyone in the Internet ecosystem may be just one federal lawsuit and decision away from being sucked into the vortex of the Title II regulatory ecosystem.”

Many analysts also speculated about how content providers may endeavor to work around net neutrality. For example, in a blog post entitled “Fast Lanes are Dead: Long Live the Fast Lanes,” ABI Research wrote, “A month has passed since the legislation was passed, and companies are already trying to find exploits in the regulations. HBO, Showtime, and Sony have been speaking with ISPs, hoping to leverage a possible loophole to create fast lanes for their OTT video products.”

Whether they endorse a role for regulators or not, industry analysts generally feel that the government is, at minimum, using the wrong tool (Title II of the 1934 Communications Act). As ACG Research analyst Greg Whelan wrote, “Today, regulators are faced with conflicting priorities. On one hand they want to spur gigabit investments but on the other hand they want to regulate broadband access. It’s obvious that you can’t get both. To repeat: Title II is a gigabit killer.”

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