Is open internet dead?
An appeals court in America has batted away pressure to get internet providers to treat all web traffic the same and give everyone equal access to lawful content (or net neutrality if you prefer). In its ruling, the Federal Communications Commission said that they did not have the legal authority to enact the 2011 regulations, which were challenged in a lawsuit by Verizon.
"Even though the commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates," Judge David Tatel said. Verizon's lawyer said the regulations violated the company's right to free speech and stripped control of what its networks transmit and how.
The outcome of all this could well determine whether internet providers can restrict content by blocking or slowing down access to particular sites. Under net neutrality rules, ISPs were barred from prioritising some types of traffic over others, which means that Sky couldn't slow connections to rivals and the like. It also means that providers also couldn't charge services for preferential treatment.
These rules were designed to preserve the idea of an open internet and ISPs had to have transparency regarding their traffic-management policies, however, thanks to a legal contradiction, providers now have the power to decide what their customers see. So, if you get your connection from someone who considers Netflix a rival, your service could be worsened.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the commission will now consider an appeal in a bid to ensure that networks on which the internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform. Another alternative is that the FCC could draft new rules or Congress could change the '96 telecommunications law.
And while this is all rather American-centric, this is bound to have a wider reach as other ISPs look to exert their influence over the web. With ISPs already blocking content and throttling speeds, some are suggesting that this is a signal toward the end of an open internet.