Net neutrality ruling a reason for worry

Collin James, News editor

A recent court ruling has much of the internet up in arms, and for a good reason.

In the case of Verizon v. the FCC, a Washington DC circuit court ruled that the FCC could no longer enforce their policy of net neutrality on the telecom companies that provide internet to their customers.

The FCC adopted a policy of net neutrality in 2010 to prevent Internet Service Providers, (ISPs) from restricting access to certain websites while favoring others. Every web site is treated equally in terms of the user’s ability to access it. In essence, it allowed the users of the internet to decide which webpage they would like to visit based on its content and not its accessibility. However, the recent court decision could very well change all that.

The ruling stripped the FCC from preventing telecom companies from acting as gate keepers and allows them to set broadband speeds on websites individually. This has taken the power away from the people who use the internet and into the hands in companies like Comcast and AT&T, addition to Verizon.

Telecom companies were quick to assure the public that this is not the case. On Verizon’s own web site they released this statement: “The court’s decision will allow more room for innovation, and consumers will have more choices to determine for themselves how they access and experience the Internet. Verizon has been and remains committed to the open Internet that provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where, and how they want.”

One fear from internet advocacy groups like Save the Internet Campaign is that these telecom companies can limit access to popular sites by locking content behind premium plans. Users would have to pay extra fees to view their favorite sites, like YouTube or Netflix in addition to paying for their internet service. While this is a major inconvenience for entertainment access, it would stifle access to education on the internet.

The current CEO Randall L. Stephenson has reassured the public that this will not be the case and stated, “I don’t see the court ruling changing how we or anyone else operates.”

But these statements do not reflect past actions by other telecom companies. Comcast is the worst offender of net neutrality, both when it was legal and illegal they found innovative ways to restrict access to competitors like Hulu and Netflix while promoting their own Xfinity brand.

Even if the premium internet plans never surface, the new rules on internet regulation only make censorship inevitable. Verizon, whose most recent controversy included assisting the NSA in their infamous data collection efforts, could dodge responsibility by preventing their customers from accessing news sites that cover them negatively.

The end of net neutrality is more than the end of streaming movies and television off Netflix uninterrupted for hours on end. It is the end of the internet all Americans have grown accustom to; rampant with pornography and piracy, but at the same time ripe for innovation and source of hope for entrepreneurs.

It was based around a very simple business model that provided unrestricted access for just monthly fees, but all of that is now in jeopardy. Now, a platform that is used by hundreds of millions of Americans will now be in the control of a handful of corporations.