Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 14th Jul 2017 11:15 UTC

Two days ago, the Day of Action to defend net neutrality took place. With the new US administration came a new chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, who is working hard to try and undo the strict net neutrality rules put in place by his predecessor Tom Wheeler. Pai and the US Congress are under pressure from and enticed by millions of dollars worth of "donations" from the telecommunications industry to gut net neutrality.

The 2017 Day of Action feels a lot like a retreat of 2014, when net neutrality was at stake as well. The 2014 campaign contributed to Tom Wheeler's decision to enact strict net neutrality rules, and was supported by a large number of technology companies. This year, too, the Day of Action was supported by companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, Reddit, Snap, Facebook, and so on.

One company is conspicuously absent from the net neutrality debate: Apple. The Cupertino giant is usually all too eager to ride the waves of what in American political parlance are called "liberal" causes, so its absence from the fight for net neutrality may seem surprising. In reality, though, Apple's absence makes a lot of sense: Apple does not benefit from net neutrality.

Apple has never openly supported net neutrality. Back in 2014, Apple was not among the 100 companies that signed the open letter in support of net neutrality, and it's not a member of the Internet Association, the industry group behind the Day of Action which lobbies for net neutrality. In addition, in 2009, Apple was caught red-handed blocking VOIP solutions on the iPhone; the company had a secret agreement with AT&T to that effect.

Tim Cook didn't so much as tweet about the Day of Action.

The only instance of Apple saying anything about net neutrality was in February 2017, in response to a question during a shareholders meeting.

Finally, Tim Cook responded to a question about the Trump administration's position against Net Neutrality, which seemed to catch the executive off guard.

While Apple has been vocal about a number of policies from the new president's office, Cook downplayed his response here: "We stay out of politics but stay in policy. If Net Neutrality became a top thing, we would definitely engage in it."

Cook also added that Apple is not a major lobbying company in comparison to others, but it believes all content should be treated the same.

This is a rather weak statement, especially since unless you've been living under a rock, net neutrality has been a "top thing" for several years now. The time to "engage in it" was 2014 and this year, and on both crucial occasions, Apple's utter silence is deafening. And in what some may find surprising, net neutrality is an entirely safe bet to support - both sides of the political isle in the US overwhelmingly support net neutrality. So why is Apple silent?

We can only guess, of course, but with a bit of common sense it's not hard to formulate a likely answer. While Apple's iOS and Mac businesses are doing really well, the company is also trying to break into the streaming market for both music and video. Apple's foray into streaming music has really only just begun, and with just 3% (20 million people) of Apple's installed base subscribed to Apple Music, it's clear Apple has a lot of room to grow. However, it's also facing a lot of competition: without the benefit of coming preinstalled on the most popular smartphone in the world, Spotify managed to add 20 million subscribers last year alone, now sitting at a total of 50 million subscribers. Apple's foray into streaming video, meanwhile, faces far stronger competition from the likes of Netflix and Amazon Video.

With this in mind, the answer as to why Apple remains silent on net neutrality should be easy to answer: if net neutrality rules were to be gutted, Apple could leap at the opportunity to pay carriers and ISPs to favour its streaming services over the competition. Apple could easily outspend a company like Spotify, making sure Apple Music users would get preferential treatment from carriers/ISPs over Spotify users. As mentioned above - Apple did it before with VOIP, so it's not like this would be an unprecedented or uncharacteristic move for the Cupertino giant.

Unless Apple breaks its silence and finally openly, unequivocally, and determinedly supports net neutrality, the safe, capitalist, and historically informed assumption is that Apple does not want net neutrality, because it would limit their ability to buy preferential treatment from carriers and ISPs.

And it would be nice if the technology press stopped tip-toeing around Apple's silence on this crucially important matter - but Apple's preferential treatment in the technology press is a matter for another time.

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Consider it dead in the USA
by Poseidon on Fri 14th Jul 2017 18:00 UTC
Member since:

With the current government, whom are openly for sale, Apple or any Corp Doesn't need to be defending net neutrality.

The European Union will do Fine, but undoubtedly other governments will want to imitate USA.

Reply Score: 2

A slightly bigger picture
by pauls101 on Fri 14th Jul 2017 21:44 UTC
Member since:

Assuming Net Neutrality goes away... what will happen in 4 years when the next government revives it, along with global warning efforts, environmental protection, etc? Policies that flip flop with every new administration are yet another embarrassing sign of a banana republic in the making.

Edited 2017-07-14 21:45 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Treated the same..
by medior on Sat 15th Jul 2017 01:21 UTC
Member since:

I'm not really across other comment Apple have made, but picking up on...

it believes all content should be treated the same

This may provide comfort on the face of it, but it really shouldn't.

One could construe this comment to mean that all content is either subject to net neutrality, or all content isn't.

Should net neutrality erode, it'd be naive to think therefore that content providers and even aggregation services wouldn't attempt to improve the reliability of their services, through payment for the preferential treatment of their content.

Edited 2017-07-15 01:22 UTC

Reply Score: 2

by unclefester on Sat 15th Jul 2017 07:22 UTC
Member since:

Apple's real business model is an unholy alliance between themselves and the big US phone carriers. Apple get maasive subsidies averaging USD400/phone. In return the carriers get to sell massively overpriced data plans. Neither party is interested in anything that upsets this cosy deal. [It also means that Apple has almost no market share in countries where most customers buy phones outright.]

Edited 2017-07-15 07:22 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE: suicidal
by JLF65 on Sat 15th Jul 2017 18:24 UTC in reply to "suicidal"
JLF65 Member since:

Not to mention, Apple can afford to pay for Zero Rating on iTunes and their app store, which will help them and hinder their competition. So why would they care? Apple has always leaned more toward walled-gardens than open platforms.

Reply Score: 3

Donation cap
by acobar on Sat 15th Jul 2017 12:54 UTC
Member since:

Clearly, there should be in place tough rules about donations, and a strict cap about how much individuals and corporations should be able to donate (nothing in the range of 10 thousand or more).

Under current rules, the ones with bigger sticks are disproportionally favored. Such unbalance is detrimental to democratic societies.

Good luck, though, to press the representatives "of the people" to push for such legislation.

Edited 2017-07-15 12:55 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE: Donation cap
by Kochise on Sat 15th Jul 2017 15:54 UTC in reply to "Donation cap"
Kochise Member since:

Have you ever seen "democracy" applied trustfully, even in so called "democracy" ? Do you really believe people with power are eager to loose their power just for equality sake ?

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Donation cap
by acobar on Sat 15th Jul 2017 16:57 UTC in reply to "RE: Donation cap"
acobar Member since:

I would answer you with a sentence form Winston Churchill:

"Many forms of government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe.
No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is
the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried from time to time."

Now, what do you think sustain what we call "democratic societies" and keep it from descending to autocracy or fascism? It is the presence of groups with different agendas able to have their preferences heard and battle for them with reasonable not too asymmetrical power. Currently, the unbalance is too powerful on USA and on some other countries where a travesty of "conservatives" (we should really call them fascists) reached power. Specially on USA, the "conservatives" were also able to dismantle by propaganda over the years (when lies are repeated so many times that they became true to simpletons), the other social organization that would have some clout, the labor unions.

I also would like to remember people that lives on USA that their system is not the worst of modern democracies and the difference is mainly due the existence of primaries. On most other countries the parties leaders are, in fact, who decides the contenders you will be able to vote for and, as so, are even more slanted toward the interests of the magnates.

The bad luck for USA is that, this time, a very unqualified contender was able to defeat all other less unqualified, thanks to all brainwash and brain damage done by real "fake news" almost unchecked all these years, courtesy of the stupid attribution to freedom of speech to hate, racist and supremacist discourses that, when confronted, usually let the idiots carry on with no penalties, defiant and unapologetic.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Donation cap
by unclefester on Sun 16th Jul 2017 01:35 UTC in reply to "Donation cap"
unclefester Member since:

The Founding Fathers wanted an American king (potus) and aristocracy (senate) elected by white landowners. They had little interest in true democracy.

Reply Score: 2

Member since:

No need of clear positioning right now. Could damage prospective business. Just my speculation.

Reply Score: 2