The success of the Internet is largely because, since its inception, users have been able to pick and choose from all the material on it, regardless of the carrier used to access it.
This model is now in jeopardy because of a U.S. appeals court ruling last week that threw out the Federal Communications Commission’s 2010 rules requiring broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally – the concept known as net neutrality.
The ruling is reasonable under current law, but the FCC has the power to change its regulations and make net neutrality rules legal. It needs to act – and users need to rise up in large numbers to keep Congress on their side.
The problem is that current rules don’t classify these providers as common carriers, the way telephone service providers are viewed. The Supreme Court has signaled that the FCC could reclassify broadband providers to apply common carrier regulations on them, including net neutrality. That is what needs to happen.
Congress could step in, but that is a less unappealing alternative. The money and political power of broadband operators could well trump the public interest in keeping creativity, innovation and an open marketplace the working principles of the Internet.
Internet service providers such as AT&T and Verizon would like sites to pay a premium for high-speed streaming, giving others access only to slower service. This would limit the accessibility of small businesses and startups, thus limiting consumers’ choices.
An open Internet is a platform for innovation that is one of our most valuable technological resources. Consumers, not broadband providers acting as gatekeepers, should be able to decide which entrepreneurs succeed.