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Net neutrality rules struck down by appeals court, is it dead now?

(Tech News) Net neutrality has been in the headlines for years, and today it appears to have been decimated by a federal court – here is what happened and what is next.

net neutrality

net neutrality

Is net neutrality dead? Looks like it

“Three judges in D.C. just killed Net Neutrality,” a HuffPo story declares today, as news rolls in that a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., has released a ruling that strikes down several key provisions of the FCC’s net neutrality rule.

Verizon filed a lawsuit against the FCC in 2011, challenging its standing. The net neutrality rule, as written, prohibits broadband providers from blocking any legal content or “unreasonably discriminating” in transmitting “lawful network traffic.” In other words, your internet service provider (ISP) cannot give one traffic source over another. The image above demonstrates what some believe could happen without net neutrality.

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SaveTheInternet.com defines net neutrality: “Net Neutrality means no discrimination. Net Neutrality prevents Internet providers from blocking, speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination.”

Wikipedia.org says it “is a principle proposed for residential broadband networks and potentially for all networks. A neutral broadband network is one that is free of restrictions on content, sites, or platforms, on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and on the modes of communication allowed, as well as one where communication is not unreasonably degraded by other communication streams.”

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If net neutrality isn’t in play, your internet provider can charge based on use, they can block certain sites or equipment meaning your use is governed. This is critical if you’re a blogger, use Twitter or any other site because it can become functionally restricted and cost prohibitive to use the web as providers are attempting to create a false sense of scarcity (like the diamond industry did once upon a time).

Back to today’s ruling – what happened???

Today’s ruling states that the FCC can make such regulations if it classifies ISPs as common carriers (like telephone providers), but because they don’t, the judges ruled that the FCC is out of line. According to the ruling:

The Commission… has reasonably interpreted section 706 to empower it to promulgate rules governing broadband providers’ treatment of Internet traffic, and its justification for the specific rules at issue here—that they will preserve and facilitate the “virtuous circle” of innovation that has driven the explosive growth of the Internet—is reasonable and supported by substantial evidence. That said, even though the Commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates.

Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such. Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order.

In a statement, advocacy group Free Press said in a statement, “The compromised Open Internet Order struck down today left much to be desired, but it was a step toward maintaining Internet users’ freedom to go where they wanted, when they wanted, and communicate freely online. Now, just as Verizon promised it would in court, the biggest broadband providers will race to turn the open and vibrant Web into something that looks like cable TV. They’ll establish fast lanes for the few giant companies that can afford to pay exorbitant tolls and reserve the slow lanes for everyone else.”

FCC Chairman, Thomas Wheeler reacted, “We will consider all available options, including those for appeal, to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans.” In other words, this will be fought and we may see it rise to the Supreme Court.

If you’re in favor of the ruling, there is no further action to take, but if you are not, you can tell the FCC to restore net neutrality.

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