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Net neutrality

Federal court deals blow to net neutrality, threatening future of freely accessible, unbiased information

Monday, February 17, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: net neutrality, federal court, free information

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(NaturalNews) Whether it is being blocked by governments or whether tech companies are attempting to limit access to it, attempts to control your access to the Internet have been ongoing practically since its commercialization.

Until now, however, outside of governments (Syria and China come immediately to mind), it has been difficult to actually block users from getting online. But thanks to a recent federal court ruling, it may get much easier for tech companies in the U.S. and abroad to limit the free flow of easily accessible information online.

According to The New York Times:

Internet service providers are free to make deals with services like Netflix or Amazon allowing those companies to pay to stream their products to online viewers through a faster, express lane on the web, a federal appeals court ruled....

Federal regulators had tried to prevent those deals, saying they would give large, rich companies an unfair edge in reaching consumers. But since the Internet is not considered a utility under federal law, the court said, it is not subject to regulations banning the arrangements.


Such deals, the paper said, could come soon.

But what will such deals actually mean to Internet users?

As explained by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), for one thing, the FCC's current Net Neutrality rules are too much of a reach:

The court goes out of its way early in the opinion to make clear that it believes the FCC does have some power to issue regulations governing Internet traffic. But crucially, the court says the FCC's Net neutrality rules are a bridge too far because they run afoul of the Communications Act.

The Huffington Post has declared that net neutrality is officially dead:

-- No more net neutrality essentially means that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can now pretty much discriminate against any content they don't like. Under old rules, an ISP like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast or Time Warner Cable had to treat all content the same. They couldn't speed up traffic from sites they like and delay traffic from sites they don't like. "Now, with net neutrality gone, ISPs can discriminate, favoring their business partners while delaying or blocking websites they don't like," HuffPo reported.

-- The end of net neutrality means now that ISPs can force users to pay for content that is delivered more quickly. Now, "ISPs can now start charging hefty fees to websites that want quick content delivery -- shifting the long load times to poorer sites that can't pay up."

-- Obama's economy is still bad, but for small businesses, the end of net neutrality will be even harder on them. "Put together items one and two and it becomes clear -- negating net neutrality is bad for small businesses. If ISPs force website owners [to] pay for faster load times, tiny retailers and personal websites will be the ones to suffer from slower content delivery."

-- Without net neutrality, entire lines of content - think Netflix - could be in danger. "Netflix watchers and BitTorrent users might want to beware -- soon your beloved services may not work like they used to. Now that net neutrality's down for the count, ISPs can discriminate against entire types of traffic: For instance, an ISP could slow or block all peer-to-peer file sharing, or all online video streaming."

If you think that that sounds like a foolish business decision, consider that Comcast has in the past stifled streaming video and peer-to-peer sharing [http://arstechnica.com and http://www.nbcnews.com].

-- With no net neutrality, bad broadband coverage and service is about to get worse. Already, America - which led the way with Internet development - has some of the industrialized world's slowest, least accessible broadband. "Now, with net neutrality gone, ISPs will be able to make even more money off their existing customer base. They won't need to improve service or bring broadband to rural areas because they'll be able to keep growing (financially, at least) by charging content providers more for faster delivery and charging customers more for faster access."

As WSJ concludes:

The court ends its ruling by formally tossing the FCC rules, sending them back to the commission for further proceedings. A key question now will be whether the FCC has any realistic way to try to salvage any of the regulations. The court's opinion potentially leaves the FCC some room to go back to the drawing board, but the ruling is a considerable blow to the agency.

Sources:

http://blogs.wsj.com

http://www.niemanlab.org

http://www.nytimes.com

http://www.huffingtonpost.com
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