Sunday 24 September, 2017

Facebook hypocrisy? Open Internet advocate deletes legal weed pages

Some tech giants have banded together in opposition to the United States’ Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) anticipated changes to Net Neutrality regulation.

On Wednesday, Internet juggernauts Facebook, Google, Reddit, Amazon, Twitter, Netflix, Airbnb, Spotify, Tumblr, Pornhub, Mozilla and Bittorrent, among others, are participating in a day of protest against the weakening of Net Neutrality rules.

But, ironically, while advocating for an ‘open internet’, Facebook shut down the pages of legal marijuana shops in Alaska, frustrating the affected businesses.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a status update to his page Wednesday acknowledging his company’s support for the protest effort, in part saying, “If we want everyone in the world to have access to all the opportunities that come with the internet, we need to keep the internet free and open.”

Despite marijuana being legal for recreational use in Alaska since 2014, Facebook deleted the pages of local businesses, arguably denying them the “access to all the opportunities that come with the internet” Zuckerberg pledged to stand for.

While the social media platform is for the continued regulation of Internet service providers, Zuckerberg has pushed back against his company being regulated like mobile networks in the past.

Net neutrality “is the principle that Internet service providers and governments regulating the Internet should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.”

Marc Andreessen, an Internet pioneer who co-authored the first widely used web browser and co-founded Netscape, offers a counter-argument that is popular with telecommunication companies. He said pure net neutrality is difficult to sustain if you also want to have continued investment in broadband networks.

“If you’re a large telco right now, you spend on the order of US$20 billion a year on capex [capital expenditure]. You need to know how you’re going to get a return on that investment,” Andreessen said.

“If you have these pure net neutrality rules where you can never charge a company like Netflix anything, you’re not ever going to get a return on continued network investment — which means you’ll stop investing in the network,” he added.

US President Donald Trump’s appointed FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, has expressed an intent to either deregulate or not enforce Obama-era rules, sparking the demonstration on Wednesday. Members of the public have until July 18 to send comments to the FCC, which will respond by August 16 and thereafter announce their decision.

Where the Caribbean is concerned, the telecommunication industry tackled the issue with a historic signing of industry-led regulation in 2016, promising to not throttle (slow down speeds) or block legal content. More than 30 telecoms, including Digicel and Flow, signed on to the CANTO ‘Voluntary Code of Practice for Safeguarding the Open Internet’.