Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Death of Net Neutrality

Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overthrew the FCC's 2010 order that imposed network neutrality regulations on wireline broadband services. This is something of a blessing for telecom companies who have been desperately fighting this ruling for years.

For those of you who are not familiar with the original FCC order and why this is a bad thing, I'll do my best to elaborate. The original order stated that wireline ISPs "shall not block lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management" while also mandating that ISPS "shall not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful traffic over a consumer's broadband Internet access service."

This essentially meant that an internet service provider couldn't block or throttle a completely legal website or online service because it just felt like it. However, with this new ruling, that is no longer the case. Here's an excerpt from a Popular Science article talking about the possible repercussions of this ruling:
"Without a net neutrality requirement, service providers could turn internet connections into a toll road, charging companies like Netflix or Google extra money to deliver their packets with a higher priority than others. This, in turn, could also slow down the loading of sites that couldn't or refused to pay. The biggest fear is a "cable-ization" of the internet, where certain internet providers only provide service to certain sites, in much the way that cable channels are packaged and sold separately." 
Now, you might be asking yourself, "If the possible repercussions are so bad, why did the Court of Appeals make this new ruling?" Apparently, the court believes the restrictions are no longer needed since users have a choice in what ISP they use.
"Without broadband provider market power, consumers, of course, have options. They can go to another broadband provider if they want to reach particular edge providers or if their connections to particular edge providers have been degraded." 
The problem with this is the court did not take into account that a user's choices might be limited by service location, and or by rental contracts that say they can only use one particular provider. For example, let's say you live in a more rural area of the country where your choices are extremely limited. If your service starts to mess with your internet in an attempt to wrestle money out of these popular services, I guess you're just screwed and hope Google Fiber starts spreading a lot faster.

Hopefully, with enough media attention and people complaining, we can get this stupid ruling overturned. If you'd like to show your support, you can sign this petition and hopefully our voices will be heard.

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