A vocal activist sect of internet users is up in arms over recent events in the battle for net neutrality. In a detailed article in Wired, Marvin Ammori tells a story of telecom giants AT&T, Comcast and Verizon endorsing legislation that would give them much stronger control over the content of the internet.
The gist of “net neutrality” as it stands today is that internet providers are forbidden from selecting sites to receive faster service than others. Though a simple statement, this agreement means that cable companies are unable to directly control online traffic by boosting service for certain sites and slowing down service for others. It means that content that is visible on the internet is ultimately judged by the user, not by a telecom executive.
Implications of striking down net neutrality are clear. Cable companies that control the physical existence of the internet will be able to deny service on a whim, and they have explicitly stated that they would be open to charging web domains to guarantee good service. Those who can’t afford the extortion are left with slower connections and therefore reduced traffic.
The case currently stands in the DC Circuit court as a complaint between Verizon and the FCC. The court heard arguments for both sides in September, but judges were skeptical on the terms of net neutrality, and seemed ready to favor Verizon. Even if the verdict favored net neutrality, it is likely that telecom companies would continue to pursue its dissolution.