Net Neutrality faces a court battle in the U.S. today.
The big telcoms – Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and others – go to court to challenge the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision last February that Internet in the U.S. can be regulated as a public utility and access to high-speed broadband Internet should be available to all Americans in a fair and even-handed way.
The telcoms want to charge Internet users higher fees for faster speeds, of course, by setting up tiered delivery structures or “fast lanes” for those willing to pay more; maybe even blocking access to some websites unless consumers pay extra. It would be a little like your local water company charging you a higher price for cleaner water.
The telcoms have appealed the FCC decision to Washington D.C. Court of Appeals (itself a fast lane to the U.S. Supreme Court) and the case will be heard today. A ruling from the appeals court to come as early as next spring. The same court refused to block the new FCC rules in June and Net Neutrality became the law of the land.
However, the appeals court ruled against the FCC in two prior attempts to regulate broadband Internet delivery. In its 2014 decision the court suggested the only way for the FCC to regulate broadband Internet delivery was to declare the Internet a public utility, termed a common carrier in the communications industry. That’s exactly what the FCC did in its February decision, the decision backed by the court in June.
Net Neutrality is the awkward phrase used to describe an Internet which is fair and open to all – as it is currently – and not cordoned off by the rich and powerful for their own economic benefit.
By regulating the Internet as it does telephone companies and radio & television broadcast frequencies – as examples – the FCC places the Internet in the same realm as other regulated industries such as electric and water utilities: industries which allow for private enterprise while also acknowledging and protecting the overall public benefit and necessity of those industries. Private enterprise: sure. Public, consumer exploitation: no – at least in theory.
The concept of Net Neutrality has, by the way, overwhelming public support in the U.S.