Netflix Shows "Principles" are Not What Net Neutrality is About: Business Advantage is the Issue

Are zero-rated apps wrong? Are zero-rated apps a violation of network neutrality, or the principle that all consumer apps should be treated equally? Some do not believe that is the case.

Facebook, through Internet.org, or example, is offering a package of zero-rated apps, in partnership with mobile service providers, in a number of countries.

Zero-rated apps can be used, in such cases, even when a consumer does not buy a mobile Internet access plan. Netflix has complained about such practices, in the U.S. market.

Oddly, then, Netflix, a big backer of the strongest forms of network neutrality, including a ban on zero rating, is negotiating deals with Australian Internet service providers doing exactly that.

As part of that deals with Australian ISPs,  Netflix usage does not count against a usage cap. Netflix is, in other words, zero rated.

The issue is not consistency, though Netflix is being inconsistent. The issue is not the merit of zero rating, since Netflix is on both sides of that issue, in different markets.

The issue is that, apparently, a particular firm’s particular interests dictate the positions that firm takes. To be sure, that makes sense, to a large extent. One wouldn’t expect a firm to support business rules of the game that harm its core interests.

On the other hand, it is rather odious when such expressions of self interest (and I have no problem with expressions of self interest) are cloaked in the language of higher principles.

Network neutrality is no different than any other battle over business rules. It is not about virtue.
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