The Internet got less neutral today: A federal appeals court struck down a Federal Communications Commission ruling that prohibited Internet Service providers from slowing down, blocking or otherwise reestricting Web content.
So here’s the new reality, internet service providers can now charge websites for faster access. And they can slow down content or block it all together, according to Craig Aaron, the president of Free Press, a non-profit that advocates for net neutrality.
Aaron says the ruling is bad for competition and consumers, “The phone and cable companies are now free to say, ‘Oh well we’re going to connect you to our content, that we’ll just put through right away. But oh you want to go to one of our competitors, well that’s going to take a little bit longer and maybe you wouldn’t mind watching a few ads while you wait.'”
Aaron says net neutrality has sparked innovation on the internet, since anybody can present their ideas and products to the masses. Today’s ruling threatens that by giving phone and cable companies too much power.
But Steve Weber, professor at UC Berkeley, says “it’s much more complicated than that.” According to Weber, net neutrality has stifled innovation among telecom and cable companies, who don’t invest in expensive services. For example, if you’re doing telesurgery. If you’re Verizon, you would like to provide, say, a medical grade network,” Weber says.
With net neutrality, that’s not allowed. Weber believes telecom and cable companies won’t block content because consumers would flee to other providers. In fact, Verizon said today that it’s committed to quote an “open Internet” and consumers won’t notice a difference.
But start-ups that can’t afford the fastlane will notice a difference, according to Scott Steinberg, analyst at TechSavvy. “These smaller, mid-level guys are going to find themselves at a disadvantage,” said Steinberg.
And the big guys, like Google, have figured out a work around. They’re starting to become internet service providers themselves. Of course, that all costs money, which we’ll end up paying in one way or another.
There’s a lot happening in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is here for you.
You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible.
Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.