Net Neutrality Neutered?
The concept of ‘net neutrality’ has taken a hit in the United States. As reported by Ian Chant in the Library Journal on Tuesday the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “overstepped its bounds as a regulator in putting those rules in place.”
In the decision to Verizon vs. Federal Communications Commission, Circuit Judge, David S. Tatel opens with this statement:
For the second time in four years, we are confronted with a Federal Communications Commission effort to compel broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic the same regardless of source—or to require, as it is popularly known, “net neutrality.” In Comcast Corp. v. FCC, 600 F.3d 642 (D.C. Cir. 2010), we held that the Commission had failed to cite any statutory authority that would justify its order compelling a broadband provider to adhere to open network management practices.
This decision will create a few bumps in the level playing field that the FCC had originally envisioned. Their intention was to hold Internet Service Providers (ISPs) “to a standard very similar to common carrier companies. Such companies, which provide a public good service—like airlines and phone companies— are prohibited from discriminating in how they provide that service.”
Prue Adler, writing on the American Research Libraries (ARL) blog, concluded her post with the following statement:
An open Internet is increasingly critical to the research library community as educational institutions provide a growing number of distance learning services and online instruction such as MOOCs. The Internet is essential infrastructure to higher education for research, teaching, and learning and has driven innovation, sparked creativity, and promoted collaboration.
How will this impact on Internet service in Canada? Does this mark the beginning of a two-tiered Internet?
It serves as an illustrative example, IMHO.
We have the same problem space, including the very issue the FCC just had trouble with. There is a good in-depth article by Andy Oram (my old editor!) at http://radar.oreilly.com/2014/01/court-prods-fcc-in-unexpected-direction-in-this-weeks-verizon-ruling.html
As Andy points out, the FCC had reason to not make consumer ISPs subject to common carrier rules, which are more appropriate to regulated monopolies. Now they need to make a non-common-carrier argument for net neutrality.
In Canada, we can look at the US situation and reason about whether we can avoid this pitfall. I’ve posted my thoughts on an “Ontario Hydro” type of solution to the cited page.
The fight for net neutrality isn’t lost yet, but it’s important to raise awareness and learn about the issues as much as possible. For anyone who wants a refresher on the basic issues, here’s a short mockumentary on it: http://www.theinternetmustgo.com/
Thanks for your comment and especially for the link to Oram’s analysis!
Thanks missyg for passing this fantastic mockumentary! :-)