Senate knocks back net neutrality inquiry

Greens motion defeated

The Senate has voted down a Greens motion to establish a parliamentary inquiry into network neutrality protections.

A motion by Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John to refer the issue to the Environment and Communications References Committee was defeated 13 votes to 39, with Labor and the Coalition opposing it.

The US Federal Communications Commission in December voted to scrap net neutrality regulations introduced in 2015.

“Australia has no dedicated protections and existing legislation is insufficient to ensure that networks do not discriminate against or prioritise specific services, applications or content delivered over the internet,” Steele-John’s motion said.

The motion said there are “existing instances of anti-competitive arrangements between internet service providers and content providers in Australia, including zero rating and unmetered traffic from selected providers, excluding competitors”.

The proposed inquiry would have scrutinised violations of net neutrality and the “effectiveness and reach of the of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in regulating network neutrality in Australia, any obstacles preventing the ACCC from effectively regulating the telecommunications sector, and considerations beyond consumer and competition law”.

“The Labor Party has been strong on these issues in the past and we fully expected them to be supportive of our motion today, particularly in light of the recent move to repeal net neutrality protections in the United States and the direct and indirect impacts this could have on Australia,” Steele-John said.

“There are four major telecommunications providers in Australia – Telstra, Optus, Verizon and AAPT – who own a majority market share, and there are already existing instances of anti-competitive arrangements between these service providers and content providers,” the senator said.

“What we don’t know is the depth of these anti-competitive arrangements and the extent of current implications for consumers.”

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Tags Networkingnet neutralityGreensSenator Jordon Steele-John

More about AAPTAustraliaAustralian Competition and Consumer CommissionFederal Communications CommissionLabor PartyOptusUS Federal Communications CommissionVerizon

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