I really try to keep these articles short, but this one may end up longer than intended, because this is something we should ALL be aware of, and FIGHT AGAINST. And while many people look at these kinds of articles and say "blah blah, freedom, internet, it doesn't affect me", this time, it most certainly does. Please take the time to read this whole article, so you better understand the far reach that this ruling has and how it AFFECTS YOU.
Yesterday, A federal court judge handed down a ruling that may fundamental change the internet you know, for good. Yesterday will go down in history as the day Net Neutrality died. Net Neutrality, defined by Wikipedia is "the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication." - Or more simply put, Net Neutrality is the principle forbidding huge telecommunications companies from treating users, websites, or apps differently — say, by letting some work better than others over their pipes. ISP's have been trying since as early as 2005 to tax users AND providers like Google and Yahoo for access to the web, in direct violation of the internet’s foundational principle: that its networks should be “neutral” and users don’t need anyone’s permission to invent, create, communicate, broadcast, or share online, and that all web content is of EQUAL VALUE.
Up until yesterday, a 2010 ruling has protected the rights of consumers on the internet, providing for a free and open policy regarding web access. With yesterday's ruling by a federal court, a judge has rejected the FCC's Open Internet Access regulations to ensure ISP's could not discriminate when it comes to web traffic. According to the court, ISPs aren’t "common carriers" like older telecom firms—so they're not subject to rules against prioritizing information.
"Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers," law "expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such," judge David Tatel wrote in the court opinion. The FCC "made a grave mistake when it failed to ground its Open Internet rules on solid legal footing". More to the point is that our previous FCC Chairman had a long track record of folding in the face of pressure. Meaning that the previous ruling handed down in 2010 had to many loopholes to help it hold ground, leading the judge in Verizon's case to ultimately question the ruling's legal footing.
So how does this ruling affect you? Well, as the Wall Street Journal reports, the decision will likely have a huge impact on sites like Netflix and YouTube, whose video services hog a lot of bandwidth (they account for 32% and 19% of peak web traffic, respectively). If ISPs start making Netflix, for instance, pay a usage fee to maintain speedy content delivery, that cost could make a serious dent in its profits—or more likely trickle down to consumers as higher costs for services.
ISPs could charge sites big fees in exchange for faster content delivery, potentially giving giants who can pay, like Amazon, a big leg up over independent retailers—not to mention other small businesses, the Huffington Post notes. Providers might even go so far as to prioritize traffic to partner sites—Time Warner might push CNN, for example.
Another anti-competitive fear, via BuzzFeed: Big companies might start paying your data fees for the use of their sites. That might sound good—free data?—but it would mean that companies with the ability to pay would have a major advantage over start-ups in winning users. As BuzzFeed points out, "If, in this future, you're choosing between two streaming music services, and one of them pays for your data, there's a very good chance you’re going to pick that one."
Beyond concerns over fees, there are worries that providers could block certain websites completely: Comcast users could theoretically end up with no access to, say, Netflix or Vonage, writes Troy Wolverton in the San Jose Mercury News.
All of this is incredibly disturbing news for the consumer, however, there is still a ray of hope. As The Journal points out, the ruling "left open the door for the FCC to craft rules in a different form that might accomplish its earlier intentions."
We will see...