The vote to roll back net neutrality rules in the U.S. could have major global implications.
While Thursday’s decision by the Federal Communications Commission could yet be challenged in court or Congress, experts say the U.S. risks surrendering its role as the champion of a free and open internet.
“This will be another instance of the U.S. ceding leadership in a global area,” said Nick Frisch, a resident fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project.
“It is going to set a bad example for other countries, coming from the country that invented the internet,” he said.
Take China, for example, where the notion of an open internet has been effectively killed by the country’s vast censorship apparatus.
Many of the issues that U.S. net neutrality rules were designed to prevent — slowing down internet traffic, fast lanes for certain kinds of content, the blocking of websites — have been happening in China for years.
China’s been there, done that
“They made their choice a long time ago, and it’s the opposite of net neutrality,” said Lokman Tsui, associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and former head of free expression at Google in Asia.
The FCC vote to repeal net neutrality will have little impact on internet users in China.
But it could encourage China to continue with its restrictions, Tsui said.
“Whatever little moral ground the U.S. had speaking and talking about the open internet, I don’t think they have any credibility left at this point,” he added.
For most other countries around the world, especially developed nations, net neutrality is taken for granted, said Andrew Lippman, a senior research scientist at MIT.
“My concern is largely in the emerging world,” where people may have few options for accessing the internet and governments might favor corporations’ interests, Lippman said on CNN.