Subtitle: The FCC just stabbed the open internet in the heart.
Yesterday, a DC court ruled against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), stating that internet service providers (ISPs like Time Warner Cable, Verizon, etc.) no longer have to be regulated under common carrier policies. Without going too deep into what is an incredibly confusing issue, often called “net neutrality” in the news, the term common carrier essentially labels a service — like phone lines — as dumb pipes; they can carry data back and forth between destinations, but the companies are not allowed to discriminating against what type of data is being transferred.
This is a very basic summation of all the information I’ve read. Thankfully, Nilay Patel for The Verge wrote an excellent article that outlines not just the effects of this ruling, but the history that lead up to it:
In 2002, the FCC made what would turn out to be a pivotal mistake. Instead of stating the blindingly obvious — internet service is a utility just like landline phone service — the FCC tried to appease the out-of-control corporate egos of behemoths like Verizon and Comcast by pretending internet providers were special and classifying them as “information service providers” and not “telecommunications carriers.” The wrong words. Then, once everyone was wearing the nametag they wanted, the FCC tried to impose common carrier-style telecommunications regulations on them anyway.
I’m not sure what the exact future ramifications of these proceedings will be, but you can be sure that the open, unfiltered nature of the internet is in jeopardy. Before, internet providers could only compete on speed and bandwidth offerings, leading to better services for consumers. Now, ISPs have the ability to directly attack the websites and services they, or their parent companies, don’t like.
What a mess.
—Wednesday, 15 January 2014