Net neutrality, the idea that all Internet traffic should be treated equally by Internet service providers, has been a topic of debate in the electronics industry for several years. In the past, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) attempted to introduce a set of net neutrality laws that would help to prevent ISPs from obstructing Internet traffic, however an appeals court has now struck down those rules.
Since the FCC imposed its Open Internet rules in 2011, Verizon has been engaged in a legal battle against the commission, claiming that the rules overstep the organization's boundaries. It has taken two years, but finally there is a resolution to the net neutrality case.
Despite concerns among observers that Verizon and other ISPs can do whatever they want to keep content flowing across their networks, Verizon's take is that nothing will change.
In a blog post on Tuesday, Verizon attempted to reassure consumers that the Internet will remain just as open as it has been. "One thing is for sure: today’s decision will not change consumers’ ability to access and use the Internet as they do now. The court’s decision will allow more room for innovation, and consumers will have more choices to determine for themselves how they access and experience the Internet," according to the post.
Verizon said it has been and remains committed to the open Internet that gives consumers competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where, and how they want. The company said nothing will change because of the court's decision.
"We look forward to working with the FCC and Congress to keep the Internet a hub of innovation without the need for unnecessary new regulations that seek to manage the explosive dynamism of the Internet," Verizon said in the blog post.
Not a Bad Ruling
Certain groups were pleased with the court's ruling. For example, the Free Press organization said, "The FCC -- under the leadership of former Chairman Julius Genachowski -- made a grave mistake when it failed to ground its open Internet rules on solid legal footing. Internet users will pay dearly for the previous chairman's lack of political will."
A Previous Decision
Tuesday's appeals court ruling can also be tied to an earlier decision from the Supreme Court in 2005. In that case it was decided that Internet providers would not be forced to abide by existing telecommunications laws because broadband infrastructure is not considered a public right of way.
Even to this day, the Supreme Court's ruling has made it difficult for the FCC to enforce rules that treat Internet providers in the same way as phone companies, since they are not recognized as public utilities. However, it is quite possible that in the wake of today's court decision, consumers will now be faced with less freedom online, as it has already been shown in other cases that depending on the type of traffic, data speeds are sometimes throttled by Internet service providers.
When asked about how the ruling would affect consumers, Bartees Cox of Public Knowledge (an Internet Openness activist group) was quoted as saying, "There could be fast and slow lanes of Internet or there could be high prices and tiers of service . . . How will [lower income consumers] stay as informed as somebody from a more affluent background?"