Yesterday, the United Stated Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. issued a ruling that was essentially a “technical” setback for the notion that all Internet traffic should be treated equally, better known as Net Neutrality. The ruling now permits giant corporations like Verizon, NBC/Comcast, and Time Warner to charge higher fees to content providers like Netflix, Amazon and even potentially, Google. If that sounds bad for consumers, you are right.
This Court decision has even deeper implications as NBC/Comcast is in the unique position of being both a “carrier” of the Internet bits, and a “content provider.” The enables Comcast to charge higher fees to content providers for content that competes with NBC. Is that anti-competitive? Sure sounds like it to me.
This decision was essentially caused by an earlier decision of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to maintain a free and open “hands off” policy, and not regulate Internet traffic, considered evil by Internet purists.
But the effect of this Court ruling may be greater evil, leading to the conclusion that “common carrier” regulation of the Internet may be the lesser of the two evils, and an inevitable outgrowth of the NSA Internet espionage revelations, Chinese military Internet espionage revelations, and “balkanization” of the Internet by foreign governments, building protectionist national firewalls, and just plain old Internet traffic snooping of your privacy. It is like what happened to the Summer of Love. The Internet was originally about free love, but before long the whole thing deteriorated into a jungle. That is what we have now, and by the simple decision of the FCC to declare the Internet a “common carrier,” a regulated telecommunications infrastructure, corporations would need to implement Net Neutrality and report their Internet traffic policies to the government. For those who hate government regulation, I agree in principle. Sadly, it is the corporations, and the NSA that have made this imperative, to insure transparency, equality, and some level of Internet privacy.
In February of 2013 I wrote on this blog about the problem, and the book Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, by Yale Law School Professor Susan P. Crawford.
Read more: Why Internet Neutrality is so important