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Net neutrality, zero rating and the Minitelisation of the internet

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  • Luca Belli

Abstract

The internet is a general-purpose network grounded on openness, decentralisation and interoperability. Such features have allowed innovation to flourish, lowering barriers to communication, participation and cooperation, thus empowering end-users. ‘General purpose’ means that the purpose for which the internet is used is not predefined by the operator but can be autonomously decided by the end-user. Accordingly, the network neutrality (NN) principle mandates non-discriminatory treatment of internet traffic to preserve the general-purpose nature of the internet, unleashing end-users’ creativity. This paper starts by exploring the NN debate, stressing that the NN rationale is to preserve an open and decentralised internet architecture, empowering end-users and protecting their rights. Subsequently, it argues that the combination of reduced data caps and zero-rating (ZR) schemes may create artificial scarcity, raise the price of the open internet and jeopardise the achievement of the NN rationale. It provides a taxonomy of ZR models and emphasises that several ZR practices might impose on the internet a centralised configuration that characterises less innovative networks, such as the Minitel. The phenomenon that I define as ‘Minitelisation’ of the internet consists of the shift from a user-centric, general-purpose network to one with predefined purposes, thereby creating passive consumers of predetermined services, rather than active internet users.

Suggested Citation

  • Luca Belli, 2017. "Net neutrality, zero rating and the Minitelisation of the internet," Journal of Cyber Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 2(1), pages 96-122, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:rcybxx:v:2:y:2017:i:1:p:96-122
    DOI: 10.1080/23738871.2016.1238954
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