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Net neutrality is shaping up to be the key debate for the telecom industry in Europe in 2014.

source Strand Consult Research Note

The telecom industry is accustomed to a transparent regulatory process where rules are clear, and each party gets the chance to express its opinion. With the net neutrality debate, those days are over.  Using social media and the press, small actors can exert an outsized influence on the debate.  Operators will come under fire when and where they least expect it, and they will likely be attacked for a mistake.

The EU Commission has a proposal for net neutrality, and many supporters of the issue want to bring it forward in the European Parliament. These include the Council of Europe, the OECD, the World Bank, telecom regulators, various political advocacy groups, and luminaries such as Tim Berners Lee.

In its new report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders’ Arguments Strand Consult has analyzed the net neutrality debate in countries around the world. Here are four risks facing operators in the coming net neutrality debate.

  1. Net neutrality organizations are smarter than ever. Over the years of the debate, net neutrality organizations have grown smarter, more shrewd, and more sophisticated.  They are funded by major philanthropic foundations and some of the largest internet companies which have a financial stake in the outcome of the debate. Net neutrality organizations hire lawyers and spokespersons from the best universities. Many organizations engage in “astroturfing” which attempts to create the appearance of a grassroots campaign by enlisting the support of ordinary individuals. Even if net neutrality is overturned in the US, net neutrality organizations will not be deterred. They will launch new campaigns, ideally to reclassify all broadband providers as common carriers. The power and creativity of these organizations should not be underestimated
  2. Net neutrality can give politicians visibility. Politicians can use the net neutrality debate as an opportunity to profile themselves in the public.  Much of the net neutrality rhetoric sounds good in the ear of consumers and press, but unfortunately politicians frequently don’t have the time to acquaint themselves with the facts. The net neutrality debate can make rookie politicians visible, as they can leverage the press, net neutrality organizations, and social media to build their image.
  3. The media loves a conflict. Whether or not they are true, net neutrality stories can be cast in dramatic terms, like the standoff between David and Goliath. These stories generate social media activity and journalists succeed getting more attention for their stories.
  4. Operators are not prepared. A net neutrality attack can appear when and where operators least expect it.  Any statement from an employee in the organization can be used against the operator, regardless of truth or context.  Given the large size of their organizations, it can be difficult operators to coordinate internally on an issue that is a moving target such as net neutrality. Additional pressure falls on public affairs and public policy departments which may be blindsided by issues and topics they have never addressed before.

In its report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders’ Arguments Strand Consult details how operators have succumbed to these risks.  It describes how a simple statement from an operator to shareholders turned into a campaign that created a net neutrality law in just 2 months. The comprehensive report provides a number of items to help operators prepare for the debate.  It includes the 30 arguments for net neutrality including the academic background, evidence and justifications. Each argument is followed by a rebuttal with counter arguments and counter evidence. It includes the relevant points on human rights law, economics and engineering to help operators engage in the debate.  It provides a global overview of the different interpretations of net neutrality.  It also provides a detailed discussion of how competition law can address net neutrality concerns and a list of relevant cases from the ICT domain. Strand Consult has synthesized this information to expose the paradoxes, hypocrisy and double standards of net neutrality.

The report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders’ Arguments reviews the history and development of net neutrality for ideas how how the debate can be revitalized to address broader challenges and concerns of internet discrimination and how to help net neutrality supporters, regulators, and politicians to refocus their efforts using existing laws and institutions which are more appropriate to address human rights violations and issues of market power.

The report Understanding Net Neutrality and Stakeholders’ Arguments is a unique and valuable toolset for those interested in net neutrality and a smart way to save time and resources when preparing for the debate. Get more information about the report today.

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