Are Tech Companies Ignoring the Global Impact of Net Neutrality?

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As telecom companies, Internet companies, the Federal Communications Commission, and Open Internet advocates are all embroiled in the debate over net neutrality, one telecom analyst is saying that the content providers in the Internet Association pushing for tighter regulation of broadband Internet should be careful what they wish for.

Telcom analyst and consultant Scott Cleland published an open letter to the Internet Association — which includes companies such as Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL), Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), among others — saying that if broadband Internet is reclassified as a utility in order for the FCC to regulate it more heavily, it could damage those very companies’ businesses abroad, particularly in Europe.

Cleland cited a report by The Wall Street Journal that said the French government is pushing for content providers like Google to be classified as utilities across Europe. Such a law would force Google to guarantee all of its services, similar to a phone operator. “We don’t want to become a digital colony of global Internet giants,” the Journal quoted the French economy minister as saying.

Cleland goes on to say that should broadband be reclassified as a utility in the U.S., lawmakers in Europe could use such a decision to support a move toward reclassifying large content providers in a similar manner. “Other countries’ politicians and regulators watch the U.S. process closely. They could interpret your policy support for strictest utility regulation of American broadband companies with less than 30 percent market share, as sympathy for European utility and privacy regulation of Internet Association companies which often command much higher market shares,” Cleland wrote.