Internet Wants to Be Free

Net Neutrality Is Dead, Long Live Net Neutrality

Yes, the most recent iteration of it is gone. But the FCC will probably bring Internet freedom guidelines back in some form.
A viral image from 2009 showing what the Internet would look like without net neutrality. (Image: BuzzFeed)

A viral image from 2009 showing what the Internet would look like without net neutrality. (Image: BuzzFeed)

Since it became part of the average American’s life, the Internet has been the place where the best content — video, photo, written — is supposed to rise to the top. What you see on your screen is largely outside the control of the media powers that be.

But today, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion compelling the Federal Communications Commission to redo network neutrality rules. The three judge panel said the FCC does have the authority to regulate net neutrality, but that the current regulations are overreaching.

Because of the ruling, the FCC can no longer force broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic the same. It’s not over yet, though. The Associated Press reports, “FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the commission will now consider its options, including an appeal, to ensure that networks on which the Internet depends provide a free and open platform.”

But if the FCC can’t mandate net neutrality in a way that pleases the courts, corporate cash could soon start tainting your Internet experience in the same way that it dictates which cable channels you get. Cable companies might even be able to block certain websites, or charge you every time you log onto Facebook. At least we’d all start exercising more?

For example, you may have heard DirecTV is no longer carrying The Weather Channel because of contract disputes. That’s right, you may never see Brian Norcross and the gang on your DirecTV-powered flatscreen again, all because some bigwigs decided that their financial disagreement was more important than your love of The Local on the 8s.

This is the second time in four years that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down net neutrality rules, but Slate’s Marvin Ammori asserts that the FCC “has all the power it needs to clean up the mess.”

But then, there’s also this:

“The current FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, is highly regarded, but some distrust him because he is the former head lobbyist of both the cable and wireless phone industries. He’s also made some statements suggesting he doesn’t understand or opposes network neutrality.”

Oh, cool. Still, Mr. Wheeler has said the FCC is committed to retooling the rules to promote net neutrality in a legal way. Mr. Ammori points out that pro-neutrality campaigns are roiling on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. Just in case your cable provider blocks access to those sites (okay, that probably won’t happen yet), feel free to toss your best net neutrality ideas to the FCC commissioners via email. We’re sure they need them.

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