IFTA Fights to Preserve Net Neutrality Rules in the U.S.

On May 23, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Matter of Restoring Internet Freedom. Contrary to the title of the Notice, the FCC seeks to eliminate the strong framework of enforceable rules ensuring net neutrality as promulgated in the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order.

The Order prohibited broadband service providers from blocking, throttling, or otherwise discriminating against unaffiliated content, services and devices and also barred paid prioritization ("fast lanes"). These "Bright Line Rules," general standards of conduct for broadband providers and transparency requirements are now in danger of being superseded by an Order which will essentially eliminate all mandatory protections. These protections are of significance to online services (and independent content) that seek to compete with video services that are controlled by the major broadband service providers and dominated by major studio fare.

IFTA's filing on July 17, 2017 makes clear to the Commission that the needs of American consumers, innovative video services and independent producers should also be given great weight and they have relied on the strong Rules put in place by the 2015 Open Internet Order. Historically, vertical integration between major studios and exhibition chains and television networks have incentivized these distribution platforms to rely heavily on their own affiliated content. The same incentives are in play as broadband networks merge with existing media conglomerates. Only clear and enforceable rules will protect third parties from the type of marketplace foreclosure experienced in the past.

IFTA will continue to strongly advocate for net neutrality at the Commission and in Congress if necessary to preserve an Open Internet so that independent producers and their distributors are not harmed and the American consumer may access independent programming without discrimination or unreasonable interference.