Yesterday, a U.S. Appeals Court dealt a blow to what we know as "net neutrality," striking down FCC rules that prevented broadband companies from giving preferential treatment to the content providers who can afford to pay the most for it.
Under net neutrality principles, network owners (broadband companies) would be barred from fast-tracking some content while barring or slowing down other content based on the content producer's ability to pay. In other words, without net neutrality, what you as a consumer are able to access on the Internet will all come down to what makes a profit for the broadband companies.
Still not clear? You're not alone! Check out the ACLU's useful resource page or this Reddit AMA.
Adam Clark Estes at Gizmodo imagines a world without net neutrality:
It's impossible to predict the future but the consequences of a non-neutral internet have already started seeping out into reality. Comcast has already been trying to ensure that its streaming service doesn't have to play by its own bandwidth cap rules. Now imagine if it was also throttling Netflix bandwidth too. Or charging extra for that. Now imagine Time Warner is getting in on the fun—and then literally everyone else with access to the internet's pipes and skin in the game. It'd be a real mess.
This is what a world without net neutrality could look like. Tuesday's decision invites big telecom companies like Time Warner and Verizon, who originally brought the case against the FCC, to charge companies faster speeds that get passed on to the end-user. (Those are the fast lanes and the toll booths.) This would effectively give an advantage to big internet companies who are willing to make deals with broadband providers and quite obviously presents small companies with the disadvantage of operating on a slower network. Inevitably, a world without net neutrality wouldn't reward the most innovative website with the best services but rather the companies that are best at making deals, or the companies with the most money.
But Gabe Rottman in our Washington Legislative Office says that all is not lost:
The court actually said that the FCC could promulgate net neutrality regulations but that it had failed to do so under the proper legal framework.
Accordingly, the FCC could actually “heal itself.” It could, without going back to Congress, reclassify broadband service under the Communications Act as a “common carrier,” a service, much like plain-old-telephone-service or passenger rail, that holds itself out as available to all comers.
Free Press has a petition where you can take action to restore net neutrality, which you can sign here (this link takes you off our site).