The Federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC had over reached its authority by prohibiting ISPs from blocking or discriminating against traffic to lawful websites. This effectively guts the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet initiative which promoted an open and free internet, which also restricted ISPs from ‘blocking’ any sort of lawful internet traffic.
The court struck down this rule in the decision of the case of Verizon vs FCC. You can read the link for a detailed decision on the case, but essentially what it boils down to is the fact that Verizon has challenged the FCC’s authority to regulate in such a way as to prevent ISPs from blocking legal user traffic. By giving Verizon this victory, the court temporarily grants the ISPs the ability to tier traffic and to block or slow down traffic that isn’t paid for by content providers. This could also mean that smaller content providers would have difficulty breaking into the internet’s free market and would enable older and wealthier content providers to pay their way to success. What’s even more concerning is what this could mean for anyone using a cable provider that also supplies internet service as many of them find that the internet is causing many of their cable services to dwindle in profitability.
The court did, however, affirm that the FCC does have the right to regulate the internet and internet service providers. So, it may simply require the FCC to find a new way of regulating Net Neutrality without stating it the way that they did and to do it in a manner that allows the FCC to be firm and concise. They need to make sure that there is no vague language in their rules (yeah, I know this a government agency) and that they affirm their own role as the regulator of telecommunications.
It remains to be seen how the FCC will fight this ruling and what rules they can agree upon that will allow them to regulate internet service providers in ways that are effective and protect the consumer. The FCC leadership is made up of a lot of former private industry experts and I believe that they have a chance of reasserting their relevance in the internet age. But first, they need to appeal this ruling and take it all the way to the supreme court and possibly try to argue on different grounds than they did in the DC appellate court.
Now, as for Verizon, they clearly consider this a huge win for themselves and other ISPs since it would effectively allow them to discriminate against certain types of traffic (torrenting) and certain providers of content (Netflix or Any internet streaming service). These companies own a lot of content delivery that still gets pushed over physical wires and as a result they want consumers to buy it from them for a premium rather than go through services like Netflix or HBO Go. I just wanted to make sure that people understand that Verizon is clearly the bad guy here and their only goal here is to deregulate the internet in their favor and to weaken the strength of the FCC to the point of complete deregulation. A deregulated internet would allow ISPs to throttle traffic, increase prices, and restrict access to certain parts of the web that they simply don’t like. Verizon’s side even argued that people actually have a choice when it comes to ISPs and as a result, there shouldn’t be any forced regulation of the internet because there’s competition, which is ludicrous.
Right now, when it comes to ISPs, most people have at the very most two choices, in many cases one. I think that the cable and fiber ISP operators are forgetting that for the most part they operate within legal monopolies or duopolies. And if anything, if the FCC really wants to piss them off, they should break those legal local monopolies and free up any company to provide internet and TV to anyone, anywhere. That sort of level of competition would be welcome and could possible counteract/prevent any sort of anti-net neutrality behavior. But who are we kidding here? Breaking one of the biggest profitable legal monopolies in the country, that’ll never happen.