Chaos could be looming as a result of a recent ruling by a federal court on the Open Internet (Net Neutrality) Order. The idea that all data on the Internet should be treated equally, no matter who’s providing it, where it’s coming from, what it consists of, what devices it touches, or who it’s going to, is referred to as net neutrality. For example, a YouTube video from Khan Academy should enjoy the same treatment by an Internet service provider (ISP) as a movie from Netfix or a commercial from Procter and Gamble.
The Federal Communications Commission was called into question by one of the largest ISPs in the United States, Verizon, regarding the idea that Internet service is a utility that needs close regulation, akin to electricity or the telephone. The FCC declaration 12 years ago that Internet service shouldn’t be subject to the same rules as those other kinds of services led to the seeds of the case.
Reportedly, “The FCC made the fateful decision to classify broadband as an ‘information service’ not a ‘telecommunications service’, which would have allowed the agency to impose ‘common carrier’ regulations prohibiting discrimination by the broadband companies.”
As reported by Dian Schaffhauser of the Journal, the FCC turned around and established “Open Internet Rules” in 2010, which was classified into three rules:
- SPs need to be transparent about how they manage network congestion.
- They can’t block traffic on wired networks, no matter what the source.
- They can’t put competing services into an “Internet slow lane” to benefit their own offerings.
In the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the last two above mentioned rules recently crumbled leading to all the criticism surrounding the case.
The ruling confirms FCC’s jurisdiction over broadband access and maintains the transparency requirements as noted by Verizon in a statement. However, the company added:
“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.”
ISPs will be allowed to throttle delivery of services depending on how much those needing to make the delivery, the content providers, pay as interpreted by some observers in education.
“Rather than a single, open network, we face a future where different networks offer different performance for different applications,” explained Michael Berman, vice president of Technology & Telecommunication for California State University Channel Islands. “It’s not hard to imagine, for example, a commercial network that has Apple as a major sponsor and makes it harder to use an Android phone or vice-versa. Or, a network where the video for courses from the University of Phoenix or Coursera run quickly, but those from edX and your local community college run at slower speed and lower resolution.”