A US appeals court has declared the Federal Communications Commision’s (FCC) net neutrality rules invalid in the case of Verizon versus the FCC, potentially setting a precedent for the prioritization of Internet traffic.
The net neutrality rules are in place to ensure that internet service providers can’t prioritise some types of internet traffic over others and are imposable on “common carrier” terms – which ensure certain types of telephone call aren’t prioritised over others. However, these terms don’t apply to ISPs.
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As such, the ruling said that:
Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such.
Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order
What this means is that ISPs could potentially now strike deals with large content companies to ensure their services are delivered with more bandwidth, and therefore a better end user experience.
Ultimately, this is a concern to many people, as allowing the prioritization of certain types of traffic could lead to the blocking of rival services. For example, if a provider like Comcast wanted to boost traffic to its own news services, it could block access to rivals. Or, to use the ruling’s own words:
It might degrade the quality of the connection to a search website like Bing if a competitor like Google paid for prioritized access.
Additionally, it creates the potential for a tiered Internet in which the companies with the deepest pockets and best relationships with providers, can provide the best experience, while smaller companies are left in the Internet ‘slow lane’.
However, this might not be the end of the story. On Tuesday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that the FCC may appeal the court’s decision, according to the Reuters Twitter feed.
➤ Via Court strikes down FCC’s net neutrality rules [GigaOm]
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