The government didn’t completely kill net neutrality, as long as companies that offer our internet access enforce its principles.
Some probably won’t. Comcast, America’s most-hated company, has hinted at creating “fast lanes” where internet companies would have to pay for better access to the network. (After this article was posted, a Comcast spokesperson described those reports as mischaracterization — see full statement below.)
But other internet service providers (ISPs) were founded, at least in part, on the principle of offering a fairer system. And after Thursday’s ruling, that promise remains.
“Net Neutrality lives on,” reads an email from Sonic on Thursday. No, it’s not from the hedgehog or the drive-in. Sonic is an internet service and phone provider available in more than 125 cities in California, and it was sharing with its about 100,000 customers that it “will remain committed to the principles of net neutrality.”
Sonic is one of several startups guaranteeing its service won’t be affected by the government’s ruling to allow ISPs to charge certain companies or services for better access to its customers. ISPs Sonic, Starry, Rocket Fiber, Pilot, Ting, and Karma told Mashable they will not impede access.
“Starry supports a free and open Internet. A free and open internet has been the single biggest driver of innovation over the last generation and we want that engine of innovation to continue, unimpeded,” a Starry spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Rocket Fiber operates in Detroit and has 3,000 clients.
“Since our inception, and regardless of the Title 2 repeal, unlike the competition, Rocket Fiber does not partake in paid prioritization or other non-neutral service delivery
It’s unclear where Facebook stands on how it will treat the principle of net neutrality going forward. Facebook didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. However, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg criticized the FCC’s ruling in a Facebook post.
But when it comes to the company overall, Facebook has made decisions that violate net neutrality’s principles. Facebook’s Free Basics service, which provided internet to users through a Facebook portal, failed in India after many said it violated the principles of net neutrality.
Each company operates independently and selects whether to support the principles of net neutrality. For Sonic, it’s the company’s core mission promoted by the CEO and cofounder Dane Jasper and the team he built.
“Sonic believes that net neutrality is similar to free speech. It is a fundamental right of Americans to be able to use an internet service that is open and free,” Sonic’s Chief Marketing Officer Tara Sharp told Mashable in a phone call after the FCC’s ruling.
Businesses have a clear interest in tossing net neutrality. With the rules gone, they’re free to experiment with models that charge different customers for different levels of access. But companies like Sonic hope that, by not participating in such experiments, they’ll provide more of a convincing case to lure more customers.
While maintaining net neutrality may make ISPs friendlier to consumers compared to companies like Comcast, it doesn’t directly help them with all the other hurdles they must face as they compete with the much larger services. These ISPs struggle with the high capital costs that are involved with deploying the physical infrastructure.
“Building our own fiber infrastructure is extraordinarily expensive so we’re building out in locations where we know we already have customers and therefore loyalty and brand equity and also where the local governments are very supportive of us,” Sharp said.
Going forward, lawsuits are expected to hit the FCC. For these companies already guaranteeing net neutrality, they can continue fighting the giants like Comcast and AT&T and deploy their services in more cities.
In cities where these ISPs operate, customers can vote for net neutrality with their pocketbooks. Others will have to wait and see.