A U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the FCC’s net neutrality rules on Tuesday, removing regulatory barriers to greater ISP management of network traffic. Given the fuzziness of the issue of net neutrality, however, the precise meaning for consumers and businesses relying on ISPs is uncertain. Proponents of net neutrality, such as the senior VP of business and legal affairs for Mozilla, Harvey Anderson, are practically foreseeing an Internet doomsday: “Thanks to a legal technicality, essential protections for user choice and online innovation are gone. Giving Internet service providers the legal ability to block any service they choose from reaching end users will undermine a once free and unbiased Internet,” he said. Less rabid responses include that of Larry Seltzer, who said at ZDNet that the court decision “struck down the FCC's Open Internet rules, which were an attempt to solve a problem that doesn't exist: rampant discrimination by ISPs against various forms of content.”
Net neutrality is a grey area thanks to the de facto monopoly status of many telecommunication companies. Attempts to use free-market principles as a foundation for rejecting net neutrality are as misguided as attempts to support it by focusing on user choice and freedom. Given that the court left room for the FCC to impose regulations that are more in line with the law, the decision is not the final word on net neutrality. Either way, however, the chances are slim that Internet freedom will come to an end—or even that many users will see any differences in their online experiences.
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