Friday, January 17, 2014

Net Neutrality Under Threat: Court Ruling Opens Possibility of Paying More or Slower Internet

By Bixyl Shuftan

For years, the prinicple of "Net Neutrality," that Internet Service Providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equaly has governed how people go about online. People can download all information at an equal rate of speed instead of being offered different tiers of speed for different fees. But recently, there was a court decision that means trouble for supporters of this policy.

In 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enacted a set of rules based on the Net Neutrality idea. But on Tuesday January 14, a US Federal appeals court ruled that the FCC had no legal authority to enforce them (link). The court stated while the government can oversee crucial services like telephones and electric power, the Internet isn't a crucial service. The FCC is expected to appeal the ruling.

The ruling opens the way for Internet Service providers to start charging customers more of they want to continue to download and surf at the speed they've been using. For those who don't pay more, the company could slow down their service. Consumers could also pay more as media sites like Netflix are charged more for using lots of bandwith, and they react by passing their costs down to their customers. Gamers could find themselves tacked with a "bandwith charge."

So why not switch to an Internet Service provider that isn't charging more? For many consumers in the US, that isn't an option. Unlike say Britian where people have a choice between a dozen or so Internet service providers, many places in the United States operate under a monopoly by a single ISP.

Financial talk show host Clark Howard compared the situation to the toll roads in early 19th Century America. People complained loudly over the fees charged, and eventually the tolls were lifted. He felt it would be much the same if Internet fees were to go up as a result of the ruling. Chatting with Valkyre McGill in Second Life, whom in the past wrote for Acceler8or magazine, felt any "nickel and diming to death" from excessive charges by Internet Service Providers would be met with new encryption, and other technologies that would allow users to get around "the current centralized web model" and make the ISPs less relevant than they used to be.

Sources: CNN, CNN Money, BBC, Clark Howard, ForbesAcceler8tor,

Bixyl Shuftan

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