Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hasta la Vista to the Open Internet. - Blame DC Appeals Court!

Thanks to a D. C. Appeals Court, the most important next to the Supreme Court, the era of an "open internet"  may well be numbered. From here on out, if the ruling stands, service providers such as Verizon and AT&T  can treat the net as their personal "toll road" -  giving preferential treatment to websites willing to pay a higher price for access and speed.  That means they can get on and you will likely be eating their dust, left in the back lanes and unable to display that Facebook image, or upload that Youtube video.

The court issued a decision that triggered dismay and anger among supporters of an Internet open and free to all, overruling the Federal Communications Commission and setting the stage for a near future in which - analogous to the larger society  - the richest 1 percent will get to play and dominate the information spectrum while the rest of us little guys suck salt. Obviously, this leads some cynics and curmudgeons to believe that courts can now be bought.

The ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is a potentially lethal blow to net neutrality – the principle that the Internet should be available equally to anyone who wishes to use it as a medium for creativity and information, regardless of who they are and no matter the size of their checkbooks.

In a lawsuit filed by Verizon, the court ruled  that “the FCC cannot subject companies that provide Internet service to the same type of regulation that the agency imposes on phone companies,”

 The New York Times reported. “It cited the FCC’s own decision in 2002 that Internet service was not a telecommunications service – like telephone or telegraph – but an information service, a classification that limits the FCC’s authority.”

The celebrity paper Variety noted, “The decision has broad implications for Internet businesses of all kinds, including Google, Yahoo, Netflix,, Apple and Facebook — as well as traditional media companies that rely on broadband networks for content distribution. The ruling for now establishes that government regulators can’t dictate how Internet service providers manage their networks and how they choose to prioritize data.”

Meanwhile, in an Ask Me Anything discussion on Reddit Tuesday afternoon, telecommunications policy expert Susan Crawford further described the implications of the court decision:
It means that the major providers of high-speed Internet access in the US, who have systematically divided markets and tacitly agreed mostly not to compete with one another, can treat high-speed Internet access like a cable TV service. They can be gatekeepers, charge content providers (any business) for the privilege of reaching us, the subscribers; and, of course, charge us. A lot. For lousy service compared to, say, Stockholm or Seoul.
In an official statement, Craig Aaron, president and CEO of the media reform group Free Press added, “[The court’s] ruling means that Internet users will be pitted against the biggest phone and cable companies — and in the absence of any oversight, these companies can now block and discriminate against their customers’ communications at will… They’ll establish fast lanes for the few giant companies that can afford to pay exorbitant tolls and reserve the slow lanes for everyone else.”

So, enjoy your open net while you can, kiddies! Post those Youtube videos and family photos to your heart's content now, because could take hours!

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