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What the FCC’s net neutrality vote means for financial inclusion, fintech startups

> Posted by Elisabeth Rhyne and Vikas Raj, Managing Director of the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion and Managing Director of Accion Venture Lab

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In a landmark ruling yesterday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), led by Chairman Ajit Pai, voted to end net neutrality — the requirement for internet service providers to treat all the content they carry equally regarding access, price, and speed/quality of delivery. This decision, overturning Obama-era internet regulations, is a big deal and may shape the way Americans experience the internet in the future.

It could have significant implications for financial inclusion, too.

Under the new ruling from the FCC, internet service providers (ISPs) may give preferential treatment to content from applications they favor — unlimited access, differential pricing, or faster/better download speeds — while slowing or even blocking other applications.

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The following post, written by Tilman Ehrbeck, CEO of CGAP, was originally published on the Huffington Post Business Blog, with the title Behavioral Insights to Advance Financial Inclusion — or Why Swedes Are Not Necessarily Better Human Beings Than Danes.

In Sweden, all new drivers start out registered to be organ donors in the event of their passing. They have the freedom to opt out without negative consequences. Fourteen percent decide to do so and 86 percent remain organ donors. Across the Oresund, less than 10 miles away, Danes have to proactively decide whether they want to become organ donors. Less than 5 percent do, and more than 95 percent don’t. On the global scale of things, Sweden and Denmark are culturally quite similar: generally credited with being open-minded, socially responsible, common-sense Scandinavians.

The vast difference between Swedish and Danish organ donor participation rates (technically “presumed consent”) despite all the cultural similarities is one of the most dramatic examples of the power of policy design that takes into account pervasive human cognitive and behavioral biases to help us do what we generally think is a good thing, but often have a hard time following through with. One such bias is that, when decisions are tough, we tend to prefer the status quo; and relatedly, it’s much harder to proactively opt for something, rather than to simply stick with the offered default choice. (The approach, popularized by the term ‘nudging,’ even led the UK Prime Minister to set up a ‘nudge’ policy advisory unit.)

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Credit Suisse is a founding sponsor of the Center for Financial Inclusion. The Credit Suisse Group Foundation looks to its philanthropic partners to foster research, innovation and constructive dialogue in order to spread best practices and develop new solutions for financial inclusion.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog, except where otherwise noted, are those of the authors and guest bloggers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Financial Inclusion or its affiliates.