Lessons From The Net Neutrality Ruling. Zachary Hiller Law Houston, TX

There is huge news from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Yesterday the court had a ruling that will impact anyone and everyone who uses the internet. Today we will look at lessons from the net neutrality ruling, what it is in general, who it benefits, and who it hurts.

Lessons From The Net Neutrality Ruling

What is Net Neutrality? The answer is pretty simple as you can see from the New York Times video below. Basically, it’s the idea that internet service providers must treat every piece of content equally, passing it along to consumers as they demand. This idea was codified in a set of rules set out by the FCC in early 2015 which specifically prohibited broadband companies from slowing the delivery of internet content or blocking it entirely.

It comes as no surprise that the country’s largest telecom companies immediately fought such regulations; arguing instead that these rules could hurt their business model. Proponents of the rules, however, argued that without net neutrality regulations internet service providers would be able to create a fast and slow lane for content. Those who wanted to view videos, for example, would have to pay a premium to receive their content without buffering or slow downs.

In a 2-1 decision, the court seems to agree. The two judges that ruled in favor of the F.C.C. pointed to the ubiquity of the internet in business, for pleasure, and as a basic public right; not unlike other utilities like electricity or water service.

From the New York Times, “Over the past two decades, this content has transformed nearly every aspect of our lives, from profound actions like choosing a leader, building a career, and falling in love to more quotidian ones like hailing a cab and watching a movie,” wrote David Tatel and Sri Srinivasan, the judges who wrote the opinion.

Of course, the biggest losers in this net neutrality ruling are the internet service providers and the cable industry. This not only eliminates a potential revenue stream for them, depriving them of the chance to charge a toll to companies like Hulu or Netflix  in order to reach customers. It also prevents them from “taxing” cord cutters, those who turn to online sources of entertainment instead of traditional cable networks. Charging additional fees for streaming video was one way to recoup lost revenue for cable companies as more and more people cancel their service in favor of online options.

Despite this ruling, it is safe to say that the net neutrality debate may not be over.  The cable and telecom industries have indicated an intent to take this battle all the way to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the F.C.C. considers the net neutrality ruling a big win for consumers. For now, consumers are free to stream to their heart’s content, without their internet service providers acting as gatekeepers to the world wide web.

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