On Tuesday, January 14, 2014, a federal court ruled against the Open Internet Order of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). This in turn threatens the government’s policy of net neutrality.
The policies that were formally in place were able to keep ISPs (Internet Service Providers) from blocking or favoring certain types of internet content for their wired services (cable internet). Now that the new ruling is in place, cable ISPs will now be able to control how fast certain sites can be accessed.
In other words, sites that the ISPs favor (most likely because they will be made to pay a certain amount in fees) will made faster or easier to access from the ISP’s internet. On the other end, all other sites not favored by the ISPs will be much harder to access, or even blocked entirely.
This is terrible news for services like Netflix and Youtube, which provide high quality video streaming over the internet. Videos require a massive amount of bandwidth in order to be viewed, and if those services are not deemed favorable by an ISP, people using that particular ISP’s internet service will be unable to freely access those services.
Due to the likely outcome of content providers paying ISPs for their content to have priority, the services provided by the content providers will likely increase in price or be modified in other ways to increase revenue and offset the fee paid to ISPs. Providers with monthly fees like Netflix and Hulu may have to increase their monthly service charge, while providers like Youtube will have to increase advertisements or develop more paid content. Stocks in Netflix have already dipped noticeably in fear of these possibilities.
If the content providers don’t resort to increase prices and don’t pay the ISP for content priority, then traffic to their site will decrease due to access difficulties on the consumer end. An obvious way for consumers to regain access to their desired services would be to switch to a different ISP, however in certain areas there are very few choices for ISPs. If a person wants any internet access at all, they would usually have to subscribe to a very specific ISP. This restriction traps many consumers, which will reduce the revenue of many content providers.
The federal ruling itself was initiated when Verizon challenged the FCC’s Open Internet Order. The idea that net neutrality would be threatened was actually expected ever sinceHDTV antenna and streaming media providers had begun to take away cable television subscribers. The internet had become the new target for revenue by the cable companies. Antenna TV still remains untouched, but now streaming media may have to pay off cable internet service providers just so they can keep their content accessible.
There is a very real possibility that the internet may soon be regulated much like how cable tv is regulated. Websites may only be available on certain ISPs much like television channels. This is a very dangerous year for internet freedom.