Recently, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) “net neutrality” rules. While this might sound like an obscure junction of the highly legal and the highly technical, net neutrality is vitally important to the continued success of the Internet.
What is net neutrality? It’s the equal treatment of all web traffic, regardless of its type, point of origin, or destination. It’s what keeps internet service providers (ISPs) from providing faster service for affiliates and blocking or slowing access to content or users they don’t want to serve. Imagine if YouTube videos took twice as long to load because Comcast was fed up with the free video service taking up so much bandwidth. Or imagine a politician paying to block the traffic to an opponent’s website. Or AT&T slowing the internet traffic in a particular zip code to a trickle, because they suspect some hackers are operating out of the neighborhood. Collateral damage? Too bad.
That means the recent ruling was terrible for the Internet, right? Well, yes and no. Net neutrality needs to be protected and promoted, but the way the FCC was doing it was arguably not the best. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ruling was against a rather problematic version of net neutrality.
In the upcoming year, everyone who has a stake in the Internet needs to watch their ISP with an eagle eye to make sure they’re not engaging in traffic discrimination. And we should support guidelines to reinstate a better version of net neutrality.
By Sharon Campbell