Over the past
few months, as the Federal Communications Commission has
moved closer to weakening net neutrality protections
, countless tech companies have signaled their support for a strong and open internet. The lone voice missing through the debate: Apple. Yesterday, the final day to comment on the FCC’s current net neutrality proceedings, the company finally broke its silence with a
filed in support of strong rules to protect the open internet. But why, at the 11th hour and well after other tech giants joined the fight, is Apple speaking up now? And why, for that matter, is it speaking up at all?
Apple’s filing outlines several key principles it sees as important for protecting the open internet: consumer choice, transparency, competition, investment and innovation, and a ban on paid fast lanes. “These key principles are reflected in the FCC’s current rules and should form the foundation of any net neutrality framework going forward,” the filing says. “Apple remains open to alternative sources of legal authority, but only if they provide for strong, enforceable, and legally sustainable protections, like those in place today.”
Apple hasn’t always stood up for these principles. In 2009, the company was
blocking Skype calls from iPhones at the request of AT&T, a textbook example of violating net neutrality. Apple was conspicuously missing from a 2014
signed by 100 different tech companies–including Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft–in support of net neutrality. It didn’t join the Internet Association, a coalition of internet heavyweights that has lobbied in support of open internet rules, nor did it participate in this year’s
Day of Action
More on Net Neutrality
The first sign that Apple was rethinking its position came earlier this year, when CEO Tim Cook voiced support for net neutrality regulations during a shareholder meeting earlier this year. “We stay out of politics but stay in policy,” Cook said during the meeting, according to
. “If net neutrality became a top thing, we would definitely engage in it.”
So what made Cook and co. decide that net neutrality was “a top thing?” Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment on why the company held off for so long. And given that its fellow tech giants have already thrown their lobbying weight behind net neutrality, Apple’s support for net neutrality probably won’t do much to sway the FCC at this point. (It
motivate the company’s cult following to start paying attention to the issue, which could make a difference as the fight shifts from the FCC to courts and Congress.)
The real significance of Apple’s filing is what it says about the company’s future. The company has long aspired to be more than just a hardware company, and now that Apple is in the streaming video business, net neutrality will become increasingly important to the company’s bottom line. Apple’s first two original shows
Planet of the Apps
debuted this year, and it reportedly plans to spend
to produce even more content. If companies like AT&T and Verizon can hobble Apple’s streams while boosting their own, it could be a real problem for Cupertino’s video (and revenue) ambitions.
Yes, Apple’s interest in net neutrality is likely driven by its business agenda. The same goes for the
other tech giants lobbying to preserve the FCC regulations
. But as the FCC moves forward with its plan to gut net neutrality, the open internet will need all the support it can get.