On 14 January 2014, the concept of ‘net neutrality’ took a serious blow from the U.S Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. The court struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s ‘Open Internet Order’ regulations which enshrined the basis of this fundamental principle of the internet and thus altering the relationship of the regulation of broadband providers. The aim of ‘net neutrality’, as judge Tatel stated, was to ‘compel broadband providers to treat all internet traffic the same regardless of source…’. The ruling (Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission, 11-1356) could allow for ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to eventually offer tiered internet services. As a consequence of the decision, ISPs may ultimately determine at what speeds content from various providers will be delivered to the consumers. Prior regulation mandated content delivery at equivalent speeds; it will thus be interesting to see if and how standard business practices among broadband providers in the U.S evolve. With the likes of Netflix and Google commanding over half the data flow to end users in North America, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that ISPs could begin charging such content providers for “premium” service speeds to users, potentially leaving less wealthy content providers in a poor position and consumers to foot the bill. As usual, we’ll keep you informed of any progress.
Dylan Kennett and Nick Fitzpatrick