Net neutrality—the idea that all data on the Internet should be treated equally without discriminating or charging differently—was in the news recently when a federal appeals court ruled that regulations established in 2010 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) went too far.
Open Internet rules prevented Internet Service providers (ISPs) from blocking or discriminating against any legal website or online content. The appeals court ruled the FCC cannot enforce those rules because the Internet isn’t considered a crucial utility, such as telephone service or electricity.
Verizon, the company that brought the lawsuit, argued the new ruling would provide customers with more innovation and choices. Education experts worry the ruling will allow ISPs to control delivery of services depending on how much content providers are willing to pay for.
“This is a terrible idea on every ground,” wrote Ravi Ravishanker, chief information officer and associate dean at Wellesley College, in his institutional blog. “Given that everything happens on the Internet now, unless those dreaming up creative ideas can pony up a lot more money to get the attention of the ISP, they are dead in the water.”
Others are not so sure since the court also ruled the FCC still has legal authority over broadband. Phil Hill, co-founder of the education technology consulting firm MindWires, told Campus Technology the ruling should provide more freedom of access to Internet services.
“This should allow the FCC to implement new rules that don’t step on the toes of the common-carrier rules,” he said. “In other words, as long as the FCC doesn’t screw up, it should be able to regulate and enforce net neutrality with future rules. But there will be a lot of overheated rhetoric in the meantime.”