Skip to Content

Why Snap Is Worried About Net Neutrality

A repeal of the FCC’s “open Internet” rules could hurt business for upstart video services like Snapchat.
February 7, 2017

When the maker of Snapchat filed last week to go public, it also stepped directly into the contentious political debate surrounding net neutrality, warning that if the government removes the Federal Communications Commission’s “open Internet” rules it could seriously harm its business.

Ajit Pai, the new chair of the Federal Communications Commission, has said the “days are numbered” for the commission’s net neutrality rules, which were enshrined in the Open Internet Order in 2015. The order bans blocking and throttling of legal content and prohibits business arrangements in which a content provider pays an ISP a premium to have its data prioritized. It also gives the FCC authority to police other business practices it deems unfair or harmful to consumers on a case-by-case basis. Pai’s FCC has already shelved an investigation into a controversial practice called zero rating, in which a wireless ISP lets users stream certain content without it counting against their data caps.

Smaller wireless streaming video providers like Snap are among those with the most to lose if the Open Internet rules are rolled back. In its filing for the Securities and Exchange Commission, Snap warned that if they are modified or removed, “mobile providers may be able to limit our users’ ability to access Snapchat or make Snapchat a less attractive alternative to our competitors’ applications.”

Snapchat is worried FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's plans to overturn net neutrality rules will hurt business.

If the government kills the rules and does not replace them, a wireless ISP would be more free to make a deal with one of Snap’s competitors that gives it an advantage. For example, it could zero-rate Instagram videos for a price that Snapchat can’t match, or even offer an exclusive deal to Instagram.

It’s unlikely we’ll end up with no net neutrality protections at all, though, says Hal Singer, senior fellow at the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy. Politicians on both sides of the aisle generally agree that there should be some form of protection for upstart content providers and consumers against unfair or discriminatory business practices by ISPs. Pai and Republican leaders in Congress claim their priority is not to eliminate net neutrality, but to remove the FCC’s authority to impose what they see as overly strict regulations on the ISPs. They have not revealed any specific plans to replace the order, however.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Image of workers inspecting solar panels at a renewable energy plant
Image of workers inspecting solar panels at a renewable energy plant

Renewables are set to soar

The world will likely witness a wind and solar boom over the next five years, as costs decline and nations raise their climate ambitions.

light and shadow on floor
light and shadow on floor

How Facebook and Google fund global misinformation

The tech giants are paying millions of dollars to the operators of clickbait pages, bankrolling the deterioration of information ecosystems around the world.

wet market selling fish
wet market selling fish

This scientist now believes covid started in Wuhan’s wet market. Here’s why.

How a veteran virologist found fresh evidence to back up the theory that covid jumped from animals to humans in a notorious Chinese market—rather than emerged from a lab leak.

travelers walk through Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
travelers walk through Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

We won’t know how bad omicron is for another month

Gene sequencing gave an early alert about the latest covid variant. But we'll only know if omicron is a problem by watching it spread.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.