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InfoQ Homepage News GitHub Takes Stance for Net Neutrality

GitHub Takes Stance for Net Neutrality

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At the beginning of December, GitHub made its stance in favor of net neutrality public. Now that the FCC has voted to repeal regulations protecting it, GitHub says the fight is not over.

Net neutrality is a cornerstone of the Internet as we currently know it, including principles such as non-discrimination across traffic types, openness for every player to enter it, and so on. Critics of the attempt to dismantle Net Neutrality warn this decision will hand control of the Internet to Telecom companies.

GitHub has been recently adding its voice to the debate, bringing arguments specifically focused on developers and software companies. InfoQ has spoken with GitHub’s chief strategy officer, Julio Avalos.

Could you explain why net neutrality is important for developers? What risks does losing Net Neutrality entail?

Julio Avalos: While concerns may center on how this affects the sites we rely on daily for searching and streaming, these changes will likely have a much greater impact on software entrepreneurs who are rewriting the way we communicate and get work done right now. The FCC is not considering the developers and small startups that don’t have access to the resources that bigger companies have.

In addition to charging internet users extra fees, broadband providers would be able to use preferential treatment for their own content. Even if developers and startups manage to pay the fees, internet providers could limit or block those services in favor of their own—robbing internet users of newer, more innovative ones.

Could you briefly depict the kind of forces that are at play in this battle?

Avalos: Incumbency vs. innovation and competition. Net neutrality gives developers the freedom to build and ship software without being potentially blocked, throttled, or tolled by internet service providers. The result has been vast opportunity for developers. It’s crucial that public policy support expands the opportunity to participate in the software revolution. Undermining net neutrality at a time of concern about consolidation and inequality is precisely the wrong move—directly harmful to developers’ ability to launch new products and eroding trust that the internet is a force for innovation and opportunity.

It seems that the anti-net-neutrality camp is at an advantage currently. What chances are there for Net Neutrality defenders to win this battle? What is the biggest risk for them?

Avalos: As the net neutrality debate continues in the U.S., it is important for all stakeholders who support a free and open internet ecosystem to ensure that their voice is heard as they have always done. Net neutrality is a bipartisan issue.

The biggest risk is that a non-neutral network prevents developers and software entrepreneurs from building innovative new products and services that rewrite the way we do things.

As the conversation moves beyond the FCC and into legislative and legal realms, we are hopeful that the current robust rules will be reaffirmed.

After FCC’s vote on December 14 to repeal Net Neutrality regulations, the fight is moving to another level, with several companies and organizations having announced legal actions. While that vote dealt a blow to Net Neutrality in the U.S. there are still options for its defenders, says GitHub, which is actively requiring them not to stop now and get in touch with their representatives.

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