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Internet for Sale: Federal Court Guts Net Neutrality

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Posted on Jan 14, 2014

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The Washington, D.C., District Court of Appeals just eliminated the FCC’s already-compromised protection of a free and open Internet and moved to limit the federal watchdog’s authority over broadband.

First, some background: In May 2010, the FCC issued rules meant to protect net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers must provide access without prejudice to their customers. The ISPs, particularly the big ones like Verizon and Time Warner, don’t like this. They envision a world in which companies like Netflix and YouTube pay an extra tithe so that users can speedily stream content. A site like Truthdig, for example, might get a much shoddier connection. Former FCC chair Julius Genachowski struck a compromise position. Land-based Internet connections would continue to abide by net neutrality, but over the air broadband—the data used by your phone—could play by different rules. This was a major sop to industry, since more and more people use mobile devices to access the Internet.

Anyway, that’s now a moot point, as The Guardian reports:

Internet providers may be able to offer faster connections to preferred websites, or even block competitors, after a US appeals court ruled that regulators could no longer enforce the principle known as “net neutrality”.

In a case seen as having profound implications for the future of digital innovation and free speech, the US court of appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favour of broadband giant Verizon, following a long-running challenge to the Federal Communications Commission’s rule-making powers.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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