The Internet is rapidly becoming the most popular way people access and consume content, such as music, movies, TV shows, sports, social media postings and increasingly smart device apps, for example, web-cams and connected machines in cars and homes. In Asia, which has the highest number of Internet users in the world with 1.8 billion people online, the demand for such content is a key driver of demand for broadband access and usage, which in turn incentivizes investment in networks by both public and private players.
Investment in broadband networks—fixed line, fixed-wireless, cellular mobile or WiFi—stimulates an ecosystem of app developers, content producers, smart device manufacturing, and web-based services such as payment systems and cloud computing, that stretch far beyond the initial demand for content itself.
But these gains will not be realized if the Internet becomes restricted by inhibitive policies and/or monopolistic behaviour of incumbent industry players. An open Internet is a necessary precondition for the virtuous cycle to emerge. The vibrant development of the Internet in more advanced digital economies has shown to be based on it being a system open to all and discriminating against none. Arguments that the Internet needs to be restricted, regulated the same way as traditional industries, or that access to content needs to be ‘controlled’, threaten the virtuous circle that has given rise to so many social and economic benefits.
This is not to argue that illegal content such as child pornography, or content that promotes terrorism should be freely available. It is to argue that an open Internet that is non-discriminatory and allows consumers to freely choose and consume content and services is vital to the progress of the economy and society. It is imperative that an open Internet is fostered and protected in Asia as governments and other stakeholders look towards reaping the benefits of a digital economy over the next decade.
This report has been written to be a point of reference for stakeholders across the public and private sectors involved in the digital economy and to facilitate discussions on and about the open Internet.