Late yesterday one of the big news items that we didn't quite get to was that Net Neutrality (and especially the FCC) was dealt a serious blow by a U.S. Appeals Court. Originally, the FCC ruled that wireline ISPs ”shall not block lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management” while also mandating that ISPs “shall not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful traffic over a consumer’s broadband Internet access service.”
Of course, the ISPs, telecoms and cable companies were not happy with this, so many of them, including leaders like Comcast and Verizon, took this fight to the U.S. Court system. Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against the FCC. Their ruling may have effectively killed Net Neutrality completely. Here's a quote with the details of the U.S. Appeals Court decision,
This basically means that any ISP will now have the power to selectively limit the content you receive across your internet connection. For example, an ISP can now reduce your bandwidth if you use a lot of Netflix, or alternatively, they might go to Hulu and demand an extra charge for services across their network. Even worse than this, they could start playing favorites with different companies and limit access to selective services. A prime example which is ripe for abuse is that Verizon now has a deal with RedBox Streaming. If they wanted to, they could effectively cut off access to Netflix for any customer on their wired internet service to favor their RedBox deal.In its ruling against the FCC’s rules, the court said that such restrictions are not needed in part because consumers have a choice in which ISP they use.
“Without broadband provider market power, consumers, of course, have options,” writes Judge Laurence Silberman, one of the judges on the panel, in his opinion in part agreeing and in part dissenting from the court’s decision. “They can go to another broadband provider if they want to reach particular edge providers or if their connections to particular edge providers have been degraded.”
For anyone who lives in a market with limited competition for home broadband services, Silberman does acknowledge that you might have some “difficulty” in finding another provider but says that it’s still not reason enough to restrict what an ISP can do when it comes to managing its own traffic.
“To be sure, some difficulty switching broadband providers is certainly a factor that might contribute to a firm’s having market power, but that itself is not market power,” he asserts. “There are many industries in which switching between competitors is not instantly achieved, but those industries may still be heavily disciplined by competitive forces because consumers will switch unless there are real barriers.”
In fact, Silberman actually argues that the United States is overflowing with competitive options in the home broadband market and cites Google Fiber — which is currently available in only three markets — as evidence that competition is robust.
“But there is no evidence in the record suggesting that broadband providers are carving up territory or avoiding head-to-head competition,” he writes. “At least anecdotally, the opposite seems to be true. Google has now entered the broadband market as a direct competitor.”
Please be clear, we aren't saying that they would or plan to do this, only that they now have the power to do so. In fact, many of the big ISPs are acutely aware that consumers might be concerned about this ruling. Because of this, several of them just shared public statements designed to alleviate any fears consumers might have regarding these issues. Of course, there are now no regulations in place to hold them to these statements, and many of them are vague to begin with. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide if their words are hollow or ring true. Here's a few quotes from ISPs below:
Share your perspective on this complex topic.From Comcast executive vice president David Cohen:
Comcast has consistently supported the Commission’s Open Internet Order as an appropriate balance of protection of consumer interests while not interfering with companies’ network management and engineering decisions. As a result, we agreed in the NBCUniversal Transaction Order to abide by the Open Internet rules for seven years even if the rules were modified by the courts. We remain comfortable with that commitment because we have not – and will not – block our customers’ ability to access lawful Internet content, applications, or services. Comcast’s customers want an open and vibrant Internet, and we are absolutely committed to deliver that experience.
We are committed to work with Chairman Wheeler and the Commission to play a constructive role in finding an appropriate regulatory balance going forward that will continue to allow the Internet to flourish. Given the DC Circuit Court of Appeals holding that the FCC has jurisdiction in the broadband arena to preserve and facilitate the innovation that has driven the Internet, we are optimistic that the Commission can accomplish this result while avoiding inappropriate common carrier regulation.
From Verizon, which posted a statement on its public policy blog:
Today’s decision will not change consumers’ ability to access and use the Internet as they do now. 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. Verizon has been and remains committed to the open Internet that provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where, and how they want. This will not change in light of the court’s decision.
We look forward to working with the FCC and Congress to keep the Internet a hub of innovation without the need for unnecessary new regulations that seek to manage the explosive dynamism of the Internet.
From Time Warner Cable, which also issued a statement:
Since pioneering the development of high-speed broadband service in the late 1990s, Time Warner Cable has been committed to providing its customers the best service possible, including unfettered access to the web content and services of their choice. This commitment, which long precedes the FCC rules, will not be affected by today’s court decision.
From AT&T’s senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs Jim Cicconi, as posted on AT&T’s public policy blog:
AT&T has been committed to the open Internet since our endorsement of the FCC’s statement of Internet freedoms in 2004. We worked constructively to help craft the FCC’s net neutrality rule, and testified in support of it in the Congress. As the FCC assesses the impact of today’s court decision, AT&T can assure all of our customers and stakeholders that our commitment to protect and maintain an open Internet will not change.
Source: BGR (1) & (2)