A federal appellate has decided that we need the Internet. The US Court of Appeal for the District of Colombia has found that the Federal Communications Commission’s stringent regulation of broadband providers is legal is broadband access in not a luxury but a utility.
In their decision, which stretched to 184 pages, the court came to the conclusion that the Internet is actually a tool to be used by all and are thus subject to this strict regulation as opposed to luxury items. They are basically saying that the Internet is now as much an integral part of society as electricity or water, and only a few would argue with that.
This decision is seen as a win for those proponents of Internet neutrality; the principle of all web users and content being treated equally and not being blocked or favoured based on status or content. As ISPs, Internet Server Providers, are classed as common carriers, they are strictly regulated to allow this approach, which is viewed as being favourable for the consumer.
If the Internet is indeed a utility rather than a luxury, the government is able to regulate access in the same way as it does electricity and gas, as it decided it would do in 2015. The FCC put rules in place to regulate broadband in the same way as a utility and telecoms, wireless and cable Internet providers sued to try and overturn this ruling. The main challenge was that the rules were too over-reached and restrictive, but it would now seem they must employ a temporary peace treaty and accept both their importance in our lives and the new rules.
While you cannot deny this is a big win, it’s way too soon for the FCC to either declare it a victory or predict what will happen on the web in the future. Those who challenged these rules have had a long. Hard fight and have already indicated they will be continuing to do so. The NYT has reported that AT&T have already stated that they will fight to the end whilse Ars Technica have reported that ISPs are planning on asking Congress to review these new rules to ‘make sure that a regulatory framework is in place providing certainly for innovators, investors and consumers’.
So while the government and the people of the US have won a battle, the war is far from over. As time passes, however, it becomes very likely that all consumers will become evermore conscious of what concepts are at play here and the significance they will have on our daily lives. In short, in relation to Internet neutrality we will become less neutral and take more notice of what’s going on.