After years of going back and forth, the FCC has officially lost its landmark case for net neutrality. The federal court has struck down rules that restricted companies from giving preferential traffic access to certain sources in exchange for higher payments. Opening the door for businesses like Verizon, XFinity and other ISP’s to gain more control over content access on the web.
The case has been a hot button topic for a long time: how much control should service providers have over online traffic? Federal Communication Commission officials believed none, and so have championed their own regulations that restrict that control. However, those laws have now been struck down, and it is a game changer for the way the internet is run as a whole.
Companies like Verizon, which was a key opponent in the neutrality case, now have the option of charging certain companies more for better speeds. For example, Netflix could pay more money to service providers to be given preference over Hulu or Amazon Prime. Providers can also limit speeds for any brand that competes with their own.
As for the little guys? They aren’t likely to have much of a voice. Which has been where a great deal of the worry for proponents of neutrality.
The worst part? The case was pretty much lost based on a technicality, as the FCC was clearly unprepared and did not clearly define their own rules and the legal precedent behind it. An official statement from the ruling read:
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 other words, they screwed up. And you can bet that service providers are going to be working fast to enact the most profitable ways of screwing both companies and users alike as a consequence.
On the plus side, the case is able to be reopened. Hopefully it will be soon, but the damage will already be done.