In case of Verizon vs. FCC, is net neutrality the real loser?

An federal appeals court has ruled against the FCC in a high-profile case brought by Verizon. 

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Thomas is pictured at a town hall meeting in Oakland, California, on Jan. 9, 2014.

A federal appeals court has ruled against the Federal Communications Committee in a decision that could affect all Internet users. 

At issue in the case, Verizon vs. FCC, is the concept of net neutrality – the idea that all information on the Web should be equally privileged. The FCC had previously established a set of rules on net neutrality and "The Open Internet"; this week's ruling strikes down those rules. (The full decision is here, for those with a strong stomach for legal texts.) The FCC says it is considering appealing to the Supreme Court. 

As Edward Wyatt of the New York Times has noted, it is now conceivable that Internet service providers, such as Verizon, will be able to "offer Internet content providers — ESPN or Facebook, for example — faster service to deliver their content to consumers, at a price." 

In a statement, Verizon Wireless said the decision would "allow more room for innovation, and consumers will have more choices to determine for themselves how they access and experience the Internet. Verizon has been and remains committed to the open Internet that provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where, and how they want." 

The ruling will not change "consumers’ ability to access and use the Internet as they do now," the company promised.

But advocates for an open Internet aren't so sure. Writing at GigaOM, Stacey Higginbotham has argued that the rights of Internet users, post-Verizon vs. FCC, would almost certainly undergo a transformation – and not for the better. 

"Instead of treating all traffic flowing over their broadband pipes equally, Internet service providers can now start making deals that could prioritize some content over other traffic," Ms. Higginbotham writes. "And based on the options facing the FCC and the FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s previous statements, I think there is a credible threat that a double-sided market for bandwidth will emerge."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to