“A real victory for freedom of expression” – UN rights expert hails US move to keep Internet open

GENEVA (27 February 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, today welcomed the decision of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish new regulations to protect net neutrality in the country.

The FCC’s rules will support a free and open Internet and ensure continued access to any lawful content individuals choose, without restriction or interference from Internet service providers (ISPs). The United States follows a small number of States, such as Brazil, Chile and the Netherlands, that have adopted net neutrality rules.

“This is a real victory for freedom of expression and access to information in the United States,” Mr. Kaye said. “I hope the new rules may serve as a model for other governments seeking to protect or expand an open and secure Internet.”

“It is especially important that the new rules prevent ISPs from discriminating against some types of content in favor of others, either by slowing down delivery speeds or by creating a fast lane to ensure quicker delivery for only some content providers that have paid extra fees,” the expert stressed.

The new principles classify broadband Internet as a public utility, which will allow the FCC to regulate the Internet in the same way it regulates telephone service and other utilities. This reclassification gives the FCC regulatory control over ISPs and greater authority to enforce net neutrality.

“It was by no means assured that the FCC would adopt these rules after years of consideration and public comment,” Mr. Kaye said, recalling the long process and critical engagement with civil society. “Moving forward, I hope that implementation of the rules will be marked by the same openness that led to the rules themselves.”

Where net neutrality is not applied, ISPs may, at their own initiative or through governmental pressure, discriminate against particular content by slowing down or blocking access to certain websites while increasing the speeds by which users can access the websites of ‘approved’ content providers.

In order to prevent governmental or third-party interference with Internet expression under the guise of prioritizing content, the Special Rapporteur urged States to revisit their own Internet policies and to consider taking action to ensure the equal treatment of content, content providers, and users within their own borders.

David Kaye (USA) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

The UN human rights experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.