Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ruling Against Net Neutrality: Victory for Telecoms, Blow For Rest of Us

The US appeals court ruling will make it more difficult for normal people and start ups to get the internet access they want

(Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
 
The US appeals court ruling against net neutrality will make it more difficult for normal people and start ups to get the internet access they want. Tuesday's US appeals court decision on "net neutrality" is a major, and deeply worrisome, step in the wrong direction.
The promise, and for several decades the reality, of the internet was decentralization: a network of networks where innovation would take place largely at the edges, not in the center. It was the antithesis of the centralized systems of the communications and media systems that prevailed in the 20th Century.

We are on the verge of losing the internet that held such promise, at least for the near and medium term. Today's federal appeals court ruling in a suit by Verizon against the Federal Communications Commission's already feeble network neutrality rules is only the latest evidence. The court ruling (pdf) will embolden America's rapacious telecom companies, which assert the right to decide what bits of information get to internet users' computers in what order and at what speed, or even if they get to our computers at all.
This was entirely predictable. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Congress and several presidents have created a policy and regulatory regime almost designed to limit choice in the long run. The FCC's 2010 "Open Internet Order", shot down by the court on Tuesday, was just one more bad move in a series of missteps. It purported to regulate the carriers in a way that the FCC had earlier ensured could not be done legally, because the commission had freed the carriers from any commitment to behave as the utilities they have become.

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