Federal Court Smacks Down Net Neutrality

A federal ruling might be a big win for broadband companies who could cut deals with large content providers — Disney or Netflix — to ensure that their web content is delivered faster and more reliably than other sites. 

All bits are created equal. This notion is known as net neutrality, as described by media pioneer Jeff Jarvis to Big Think in a recent post. Jarvis argues: 


The Internet is designed so that bits can travel freely from one end to the other and it will go around detours.  If any bit is detoured and cannot reach its goal then no bit can be presumed to be free.  Whether that happens because of a government or a cable company doesn’t matter.  All bits are created equal.  That’s net neutrality.  

A federal appeals court today disagreed, on technical grounds. The court found that the FCC cannot impose its net neutrality rules as they are currently written. Open-Internet advocates tend to consider the existing rules to be weak, while many Republican members of Congress oppose the rules as an unjustified power grab. Beyond the political skirmishing, Jeff John Roberts summarizes the broader implications of the court's 81-page ruling here:

The court’s ruling is a game-changer because it upsets the FCC’s current practice of requiring broadband internet providers to act akin to “common carriers.” In plain English, this means that they have had to behave in a similar way to phone companies and not give special preference to one type of call (or traffic) over another.

So what does mean for content providers and consumers - and indeed, the future of the Internet?

This could be a big win for broadband companies like Verizon (the appellant in the suite) who Roberts predicts might "cut deals with large content providers — say Disney or Netflix — to ensure that their web content was delivered faster and more reliably than other sites. This could not only restrict consumer choice but also provide a threat to smaller websites that do not have the resources to pay for any “express lanes” that the broadband providers choose to create."

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