Net Neutrality on Life Support

The Internet is big business, but access to the Internet is even bigger business. That was the mind set of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which tried to tell Comcast that it couldn't limit available broadband to certain heavy users.

However, a U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia ruled Tuesday that the FCC doesn't have the authority to tell Comcast, an in essence other providers, whether or not they can limit access to the Internet.

According to the 3-0 ruling, the FCC lacked "any statutorily mandated responsibility" to enforce network neutrality rules, wrote Judge David Tatel. Some net neutrality advocates said the ruling raises broad questions about the FCC's authority to take any actions not spelled out in law.

While Net Neutrality has been a heated discussion since 2007 (including being a talking point for President Obama during his historic run to the White House) things were sped up a couple of years ago when Comcast tried to give the Heisman to customers who were sucking up massive amounts of network resources via the use of peer-to-peer sharing services like BitTorrent. 

This move, some argued, opened the floodgates for service providers to slow or block traffic from heavy bandwidth sites such as Hulu or YouTube as well as other companies that make their living off of content consumption.

This decision has far reaching implications, including on small businesses, consumer use and even wireless broadband, which probably has companies like AT&T and Verizonwireless grinning from ear to ear.

However this shakes out, there are some alternatives for the FCC, according to a Washington Post blog item, including: Try to classify broadband as a common carrier service similar to that of normal phone services; have Congress expand the FCC's authority; or simply appeal the decision.

Over at Barron's, Eric Savitz plays off of Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffet's suggestion about the FCC's nuclear option — involving the reclassification of broadband service to be what’s known as a Title II service, or a common carrier, Savitz writes. As he reported, broadband is now designated as a Title 1 service, which carriers fewer regulatory restrictions.

This option, as Savitz reported, is basically an Internet that is even more regulated than it is now, with a tiered system designed to make access stricter in terms of consumer use while making it more expensive.

Regardless of what will happen to Net Neutrality, we appear to be headed towards a perfect storm of where a consumer rights are overshadowed by the monopolization of internet access where big business wins and the little guy takes one for the team.

Photo Credit