In the United States, a court just ruled unconstitutional a law dating back from 2010 that requires “internet neutrality” from ISPs: this law aims indeed at prohibiting ISP to push online services more than others.
The court thus held that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had no authority to require companies to enforce such a measure. The case was brought to the court by the leading telecom operator Verizon, wishing the end Internet neutrality.
Some believe that this decision will provide an opportunity for major ISPs to block services such as YouTube and Netflix, which use large bandwidth capacities, to promote the services of their own partners. Operators could even set up a preferential offer: those who pay a subscription would access more quickly to such sites as Facebook, for instance.
“Internet companies said they would not slow down, degrade or prevent the service, and it is not in their interest to do so. But it is in their interest to find additional funding for the enormous cost of bandwidth, so that consumers do not have to bear the cost,” said Scott Cleland, former adviser to the White House on matters of telecommunications.
Others believe that this action will limit the creation of innovative online services. This provides “private businesses with such an incredible legal authority to block Internet traffic, provide preferential access to specific online services or processing applications, and attract or otherwise exclude certain websites users based on their own commercial interests ” says Barbara Stripling, president of the American Library Association. The only concession to the FCC is the maintenance of the disclosure rule: an ISP shall inform its customers of the implemented measures.
Verizon and its partners, such as Time Warner Cable, refer to the fact that the FCC has no authority to interfere in their affairs. They also explain that the U.S. Congress has never defined that ISPs were regulated utilities. After this favorable court ruling for Verizon, the latter said that ” it would not change the possibility [for its] customers to access the Internet as they do today.” The telecom operator even positions itself as a defender of an open Internet.
The FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, said that he would analyze all available options “to ensure that networks depending on the Internet to go on with providing a free and open platform for innovation and expression.”
According to the specialized blog GigaOM, large companies such as Disney and YouTube are the ones who would benefit the most from this decision. They will be able to pay money for ISPs to promote their platforms. It is the users who will pay the price, they will find themselves limited to the content provided by the companies that have the means to pay.
“Consumers insistence requires to find a balance,” said Everett Ehrlich, former Deputy Secretary of Commerce now looking for the reflection group Progressive Policy Institute.
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