We’re About to Lose Net Neutrality — And the Internet as We Know It

from Wired

Net neutrality is a dead man walking. The execution date isn’t set, but it could be days, or months (at best). And since net neutrality is the principle forbidding huge telecommunications companies from treating users, websites, or apps differently — say, by letting some work better than others over their pipes — the dead man walking isn’t some abstract or far-removed principle just for wonks: It affects the internet as we all know it.

Once upon a time, companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and others declared a war on the internet’s foundational principle: that its networks should be “neutral” and users don’t need anyone’s permission to invent, create, communicate, broadcast, or share online. The neutral and level playing field provided bypermissionless innovation has empowered all of us with the freedom to express ourselves and innovate online without having to seek the permission of a remote telecom executive.

But today, that freedom won’t survive much longer if a federal court — the second most powerful court in the nation behind the Supreme Court, the DC Circuit — is set to strike down the nation’s net neutrality law, a rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2010. Some will claim the new solution “splits the baby” in a way that somehow doesn’t kill net neutrality and so we should be grateful. But make no mistake: Despite eight years of public and political activism by multitudes fighting forfreedom on the internet, a court decision may soon take it away.

More here.

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23 Responses to We’re About to Lose Net Neutrality — And the Internet as We Know It

  1. Brian Mitchell November 8, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    I think it is terrible that it is likely the court will strike down the no discrimination policy in the net neutrality law. Without the net neutrality law, big internet and phone companies will be able to take advantage of smaller companies and newly founded start up companies. Without this law in place, there is almost a monopoly on the internet. While it is not one company controlling the internet, only the large ones will be able to rule the internet together. This should not be allowed, as it crushes the American Dream of starting a business, if this business were to be an internet company.

    It is clear why large phone and cable companies would want to fight this law. Without it, these companies can charge websites money for better service. As the article states, internet users tend to quit using a certain website or application if it takes too long to load. This way, cable companies can charge large sums of money for websites to work. Anyone who runs a website business would have to either pay that tax, or watch their internet driven business slowly fail.

    While no decisions have been made, and nothing is certain yet, I sure hope the net neutrality law is held up in court. If it is not, I hope the FCC takes the time to create a new, similar law that is more concrete, not rushed, and does not contain as many loopholes as the net neutrality act does.

  2. Michael DeRose November 8, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

    There was no other practical way to build the network we have today without relying on these companies, unless you suggest that public pay a much greater portion of the bill through a government built system which companies would then bid to access as customers themselves, beholden to rules established by the government for the public interest.

    It won’t work if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. No matter who builds the network, it is still a common network. Other countries have keep control of it in the hands of the government. There are potential future problems with this as companies change, even in Europe. The only solution now that the network is built is to force companies to pay by neutrality rules or tell them to build their own network by themselves offline from the Internet, a network of their own where there is no public interest.

  3. David A. Nagamine November 8, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    After looking over this article I would say that I am not surprised on why people will think net neutrality will end. However, I believe that is not so considering all the previous attempts by major internet and phone providers had tried and failed before. Even when they had pushed the government into issuing a bill that might have threatened net neutrality it had caught on to the public and was quickly shut down due to it being unpopular. The politicians would feel reluctant to try that again due to the opposition.
    However, the supporters of net neutrality had only won out due to the fact that we were aware of it being threatened. Over time people will relax their guard and they will most likely try again and will attempt to pass it as quick as possible in order to not suffer retaliation. Overall I do not believe it will not end though we’re delaying or repelling attempts to have it shut down and with a wane in observation it could be in danger again.

  4. Melissa R. November 9, 2013 at 12:39 am #

    This article is essentially addressing the concern for a telecommunications legislation, which may have the potential to inhibit individualism and freedom with regard to net neutrality. The author noted that the judges in the initial net neutrality case seemed more likely to rule in favor of the cable and phone companies as opposed to the actual internet user.

    It seems evident that this, “striking down of the net neutrality law” is granting more power to cable companies. It is essentially enabling these companies the ability to deliver particular websites and/or services differently, effecting the overall performance of a website and/or application with regard to its efficiency, regardless of reason.

    Given that we live in an Internet driven society, how will this proposal affect Internet users? Will this require user of the Internet to pay a premium for quality/service of certain websites and/or applications?

  5. Brittany Gilstein November 9, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    Based on this article, it’s extremely interesting to find that we could potentially be losing net neutrality and the Internet, as we know it. As companies as well as individuals rely heavily on the use of the Internet, it’s intriguing to see how this issue will pan out. Logically it makes sense that companies could potentially lose net neutrality with their ability to charge companies such as Google and Yahoo!; however, this is something users are already aware of, since they pay access to the Internet and then Google and Yahoo! pay other companies to connect these Internet users. The problem occurs when the intervention of the FCC gets involved. The rule under the FCC is that “they would be unable to stop cable and phone companies from taxing innovators” (Ammori 2). Basically, the problem arises because users have to make a choice of whether or not they will remain loyal to their company with FCC’s law. Since some companies will be providing worse services to their users, users are more likely to switch to competitors to receive better service. Basically, this is a crucial aspect for both the company as well as the user; therefore, it’s interesting to see where this will take the Internet as we know it.

  6. Eric Strano November 9, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    The ideology that the internet is a place where anyone in the world can place information to be disseminated to millions has been the reason for the booming growth of the internet. So often today it seems we forget that the web has not always been what it is today, and it took multitudes of people to trust in what the purpose of the web was for it to truly gain traction. As we lose net neutrality I feel that the internet will not garner the same trust as it does today. It will begin to be viewed with more skepticism as large corporations take a leading role over what is on the web.
    The whole situation involving phone and cable companies, even when briefly considered, reeks of disingenuous motives. Relying on a loophole in legislation to limit the service they give to apps and websites they do not favor is exactly the type of corporate nonsense we should be moving away from. I find it offensive that some of these companies are trying to manipulate internet users based on how long it takes for pages to load. In keeping with the tradition of the web, however brief, I believe that the internet should be a place from which information can be found. As these phone and cable companies continue their attack on net neutrality, they will be viewed in an ever worsening light. What it comes down to is these companies fighting against neutral information begin delivered to consumers, and that just happens to be a fight they won’t win.

  7. Justin C November 9, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    We all know discrimination in the United States has been stopped years and years ago after the ban of slavery. Well what some may not have known, that there is the opportunity on the internet, yes the internet. So how does this discrimination happen? Cable companies such as Verizon and AT&T, can essentially chose to make some websites take longer to load than others if they so wished to do so. And after reading this article, these companies do in fact want to do that. Fortunately for us, there was a law passed back in 2006 by the FCC which prevented this from happening. This law became known as “network neutrality” which prevented cable companies from discriminating against websites. The problem now is that in 2010 Verizon challenged the FCC law and the DC Circuit court is set to make a ruling on this case very shortly and based on case hearings, it seems the court is going to rule in Verizon’s favor.
    So why would companies want to discriminate against certain website? Well the answer to that is best shown in an example. One example given in the article is that Comcast was secretly blocking applications that were threatening to the existence of Comcast such as BitTorrent. BitTorrent is basically a service where users can upload files of any sort (movies, tv shows, music, etc), and share them with other users. This is illegal for Comcast to do because Torrents are not illegal so they have no right to block this. If this law gets shut down, companies like Verizon and AT&T will be able to make deals with websites and companies and come up with some sort of deal where the company pays money to Verizon or AT&T and in return they will provide faster loading times to them over their competitors. This is a clear discrimination and will disrupt competition in America.

  8. Dwight Mathis November 9, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    Based on reading this article, it is very interesting to find out how the whole battle of Net Neutrality is coming along. Am I wrong that I wasn’t shock that Net neutrality was not going to fall through. Whoever has file the lawsuit against AT&T and Verizon do not have enough evidence and facts to stop wait what they are doing. It is unfortunate the series of events that are happening based off internet companies personal profit. But the government really has no say on what internet providers can and can not do.
    The only reason why I am concerned is the greed come behind it. Without Net Neutrality it affects us, consumers, as a whole. The fact that internet providers might charging me more just so I can gain access to Google or Yahoo. They will lose a lot of value customers in the process. I just hope both parties can come to an agreement so both side are happy.

  9. Vincent DeCaro November 9, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    The internet has evolved from its origin into a boundless source for information, while picking up a large chunk of commerce along the way. The importance of the intellectual side has grown, maintaining many facts and figures about the past, present, and future of humanity. The other side to this extremely important benefit is the amount of commercial activity on the internet, which with this issue of “website discrimination” is beginning to show its ugly side. In the cut-throat world of American capitalism, cash is king and companies will do whatever they can to increase market share and expand their bottom line. Unfortunately, as seen in this article, this thinking process has bled into the realm of the internet itself, with companies attempting to extort a “fee” just to have preferential performance on a server. It seems that the blowback would be sudden and swift, killing the views of smaller or up and coming websites. The unfortunate fact is that in the end, and internet monopoly can and will be created not only in where we shop, but in where we find information. Hopefully, FCC regulators and the circuit court will realize this fact and instead keep the internet free and fair.

  10. Eric Thomas November 9, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    Net Neutrality prevents phone and cable companies from discriminating against websites by slowing service. This concept of net neutrality is under review by the DC Circuit. Verizon has taken the FCC to court over being able to discriminate service for any reason. Phone and cable companies want to be able to charge companies and individuals for the right to have their webpages loaded quickly. These phone and cable providers already do charge for the use of the Internet, but executives of large corporations can never have enough money and must look for ways to prevent people with good ideas from becoming successful.
    If the Net Neutrality law is removed phone and cable companies will have the ability to choose which companies or ideas they want to be viewed by the general population. Our society likes to receive information quickly and if a website takes longer to load than a competitor most consumers will us the competing webpage. This means that companies phone and cable providers deem threats will never even get off the ground. Almost all information is retrieved through the Internet and some of the most successful companies in recent memory can directly attribute their success to the Internet. As consumers we can only hope that our courts will rule in favor of its citizens and not in the interest of big business.

  11. Nick Rapisarda November 10, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    The Internet that we take for granted on a daily basis is founded on the principle of Net Neutrality. The concept that users have full reign to do whatever and say whatever they want on the Internet. It is also a law that stops telecommunication companies from being able to act in a bias manner when providing service to the region. Most people don’t understand how strong and impactful the Net Neutrality law is to the common people, and they won’t until it is gone. Without this law in place, there would be a dictatorship with service providers at the throne. Nobody would be able to have the freedom to say what they want to say or to express themselves in any way that is against the greater good of the companies. The internet would become empty wasteland as people begin to look the other way and stop using the internet like they always had. There would be an uproar of protest as small, off the record, internet groups begin surfacing that allow users to truly express themselves. All of these impacts are an exaggeration of course, but who is to say they are a complete fabrication of what may lie ahead. The internet has led to innovation from the people expressing themselves in ways that drive the world into the future. Without that right of expression, there will be no innovation, and there will be no future for the internet.

  12. Thomas Millet November 10, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    From the sounds of this article, the DC circuit court is about to take the internet from the internet from the Wild West into the organized crime era of the 1920s, with network companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T skimming off the top from anyone who wants a smooth, fast internet connection for their website. This sounds outrageous. Net Neutrality is so important to the internet and to the information age in which we live, allowing new innovations, start-ups, communication lines to be grown everyday and putting the success or failure of new products in the hand of the consumer and on the merit of the service provided. If net neutrality is removed and internet providers can increase the connection speed of some sites and decrease others, the only entity that will gain is the providers. Customers, companies, innovators, and society will all be worse off for this.
    However, even if net neutrality does come to an end, it will only be temporary. Users of the internet will find ways around these blocks, and will still choose the provider that allows them what they want, not tells them what they want. If companies like AT&T become the gatekeepers of the internet, their actions and motivations will be closely monitored, hopefully by the government, but certainly by the people (which are supposed to be one in the same here). Hopefully this changing of the guard will not occur, but I’m optimistic that if it does it will not lead to the end of the net as we know it, at least not for long.

  13. Mike Vassos November 10, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    A change in Net Neutrality will most likely lead to a drastic change in which we use the Internet. I personally feel that a change like this would be for the worse. Internet service providers, such as Comcast and Verizon, already have a lot of power of their users. This is essentially getting rid of the freedom that we have on the Internet.
    With these changes that will be made, Comcast and Verizon will have more control about how fast users receive their content and how much they are paying for it. Most likely we may see a tiered payment system which offers different quality service for the more a user pays. Not only that, but these ISPs will be able to make certain content for users run a speed that makes it unusable if they want. In other words, Comcast would be able to make it so users have difficulty viewing Verizon’s webpage.

  14. anthony amoroso November 10, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    The end of Net Neutrality could be coming to a close as the courts are supposed to deliver a decision within a time period ending very soon. The existence of net neutrality prevents the large corporations of our society from taking over completely and filtering information that could sway a consumers opinion against them. No longer will a consumer have the power to do whatever they choose on the internet. If Net Neutrality ends the landscape of the internet will change drastically.
    Our freedom as a consumer is very dependent on the existence of Net Neutrality. Without it we will be limited as to what we can do and the net will shrink dramatically and what we can and cant view will be defined by the large corporations. In interest of the general consumer I hope to see Net neutrality remain as our freedom is important and not should be limited simply because the large companies greed is growing.

  15. Nathan Kholodenko November 11, 2013 at 1:04 am #

    Network companies such as Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T are the predators while web companies such as Google and Yahoo! are the prey. There was a time where networks were neutral and users didn’t need permission to invent, create, or communicate online. Then network providers decided to declare war on web companies by charging them to reach Internet users. Comcast already began secretly running services that blocked popular applications that were threats to their respective company. These network companies have leverage that enables them to be the vicious tycoons they currently are. They are taking advantage of powers they only have by allowing certain web companies to have better service than others in a designated area, discrimination at its finest.

    The FCC was given the power in 2006 that would authorize themselves from stopping phone and cable companies from blocking websites. However, they were unable to stop cable and phone companies from taxing innovators or providing worse service to some sites and better service to others, pretty much a false compromise (Ammori). Society saw this nonsense and promoted network neutrality- forbidding phone and cable companies from not only blocking but also discriminating between businesses. Both sides battled in court where Verizon took the FCC to court to void their rules, which stated the act of forbidding them from discriminating among websites and applications.

    The American society demands we have our freedoms from every front, this one includes the Internet. Our country thrives from innovative ideas that are not to be deterred by network providers. The government needs to take action so the simplest form of net neutrality shines and that loopholes cannot provide a barrier as in years past. It simply wasn’t fair, local startup companies can have the best management but would get shook out by the cable providers from discrimination.

  16. Nick G November 11, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    The proposals this article lays out made by AT&T and other telecom companies such as Verizon and Comcast are quite drastic. The massive companies wish to profit more off the internet by being able to reduce their network functions to sites that are in direct competition with them. Currently, telecom companies have to treat everyone equally on the internet in terms of hosting but what the companies want is to be able to not give internet to certain sites depending on what their content is. The sites they claim to want to deny access to are torrent sites and other p2p. They claim to be losing money to those sites because people can download any movie they want instead of buying it through the telecom’s on demand service. I do not agree with the use of torrents, but on the other hand, I do not wish for major companies such as AT&T being able deny access to the internet because they do not agree with what content a given internet site has.
    In my opinion if the courts allow this to go through the internet will be a very different place, certain sites will load quicker than others depending on what type of contract they have with the telecom companies. This legislation gives an insane amount of power to companies that have been proven in the past by the lack of consumer privacy, to be very greedy. No one knows what the courts will decide, but certainly we should expect a very different internet, one that forces websites to charge fees to users if those websites have to pay Comcast and AT&T for access.

  17. Tyler Ferst November 11, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    The moment I learned what net neutrality is I knew it was doomed to eventually fail someday. It is unfortunate that it may be happening already. It is also unfortunate that smaller companies will no longer be able to strive on their own merit and how good they are alone. Instead, it will all depend on the types of deals that they can strike with one of the major cable companies (Verizon, AT&T, Comcast). Therefore, many good businesses who advertise online will not be able to get the type of traffic and exposure that they deserve if they do not have the money to make a deal with a big name cable company. This puts the small businesses just getting off the ground at a huge disadvantage against the already established ones who have the money to invest online.
    I am hoping that the courts give us a reprieve so we can keep net neutrality before we become slaves of the internet and are forced to use websites certain websites and only be exposed to a limited amount of the internet. It is an unethical money-making scheme that these well-known companies are taking part in and I hope for society’s sake that the government can realize how important net neutrality really is to us. Unfortunately, in the end it is all a money game and it is hard to visualize society coming out on top in this battle. Those who have the money consequently hold the power as well.

  18. Justin Geissler November 11, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Since the Internets creation, the idea of being able to freely create what you want and do what you want was always present. This is the idea behind Net Neutrality. I am a firm believer in Net Neutrality. I think it is ridiculous that Internet service providers, such as Verizon, are trying to suck even more money out of consumers and businesses. I believe that consumers already overpay for access to the Internet. Businesses also pay the Internet service providers to have their websites more prominently advertised than other sites. So the Internet service providers are making out like bandits. I have gone in depth on Net Neutrality before and I think it is just absurd what these companies are doing. An Internet service provider has high startup costs. The costs of laying wires and all other necessary equipment to allow the network to function. Once these costs are recovered, the money the Internet service providers receive is all profit. Now imagine, some of these wires and equipment could have been in use for 10 to 15 years already. I am sure these Internet service providers have recovered their costs by now. All they are after is more money and bigger profit margins. I challenge whether taking away Net Neutrality is actually ethical or not. The politics of Internet service providers I will never understand.

  19. Jennifer Nuhfer November 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    The internet is an amazing place, where one is able to connect and share ideas with others. It is a place that harbors innovation and creativity, which enables businesses to flourish. However, the internet providers such as Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast want to control this flow of innovation and creativity. Specifically, these companies believe they have the right to control which sites should be used and blocked and at a fee. If this happens, then start-up companies and lesser known companies will struggle in the new market. The Web mobile companies will not be able to prosper off of their innovative new technology and design but as to how well they can negotiate with the large internet providers like Comcast. As the article discusses, this is a scary thought that may soon become a reality, unless the federal courts stop it.

    Right now, Verizon is in court fighting the FFC and its nondiscrimination principle. The nondiscrimination principle also referred to as network neutrality, forbids phone and cable companies from blocking and discriminating between business deals. Meaning, the internet providers like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast will not be allowed to choose one site over another for any reason. Essentially, this principle inhibits the internet providers from taking control of the internet. In 2010, the FCC seemed to be winning the battle against the internet provides with the network neutrality principle. However, Verizon is now arguing not against the no-blocking rule, but against the discrimination rule; believing that it inhibits the internet provider companies from charging fees on “information highway”. Personally, giving more control to the internet providers will result in less internet freedom for both the average user and Web mobile companies. Thus, the FCC and the legislation should be working hard to maintain the network neutrality principle.

  20. Andrew Marr November 12, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    The issue of net neutrality’s eminent demise is saddening but not at all surprising. In a world dominated by corporate control, nothing stays neutral and free for very long. Those with the dollar will always find a way to gain control. The unfortunate part about the potential loss of net neutrality is the creativity and innovation that it will limit. Companies and organizations with massive potential and ability for positive influence on the world around them may not be able to have an Internet kicks start if they do not have sufficient funds. It is just sad to see one of the few true free places left in this world finally falling prey to corporate takeover.

  21. Ian Reynolds November 13, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    Net neutrality is once again back in the news. The big companies just want more money from us to access the things we already have access to. These companies are never going to give up, if they can make money on something. If these companies win, they will be able to discriminate against the users and say which sites they can and cannot choose. It is even worse then this, if the companies win, they will be able to block or slow down traffic to sites for whatever reason. If the company just doesn’t like the website, then they have the potential to block it. These companies are going to keep fighting until the case reaches the Supreme Court. They are already pretty close.
    We should not let them win. This will only further prove that money runs everything, and the little guy has no chance. If we let these big companies choose which sites we can and cannot visit, then that will crush small businesses. Why should they have that much control over what we do? Hopefully the DC Circuit will strike down the big companies, and leave the internet the way that it is. If the companies win, then they will have a huge effect on new startup websites and innovation. They can slow down speeds to these websites and ultimately lead them to fail, while their own websites are extremely fast because they wouldn’t slow their websites now would they.

  22. Alan Cid November 14, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

    The free market strikes again. Guided by the invisible hand, even though held back by law, providers of the internet seek to do what any hot blooded capitalist would do: charge for services. Providers such as AT&T and Verizon already charge consumers for the service of mobile internet, a product relatively new for them. But the ability to freely access and do what one wishes on the internet will soon disappear, according to this article. I can’t say that I’m that upset by this notion. On one hand, my ability to not do work and find something else to do will greatly diminish. But on the other, this would either force me to be more productive or play more Pokemon. Both outcomes are fine by me.
    In all serious, there isn’t much of an issue here for people who use the internet for constructive or business purposes. The only party this effects is the public. And they don’t really need unlimited access to the internet. In fact, if the internet provides us with evidence for either side, it shows us that when given to the masses, the internet is used for nothing but porn and cat videos. Don’t get me wrong, I love cat videos. But there is a much more important use for the internet than such trivial things as memes and people hiding behind “anonymity” as they throw racial slurs and vulgar insults at each other. For instance, one of my fraternity brothers donates his computer’s processing power to the task of finding a cure for cancer (through the internet, of course) while it isn’t being used by him. Noble activities like trying to find cures for cancer, something I’m sure is backed by a fat wallet, should take precedent over the day to day ramblings of someone who flips burgers at Burger King. The internet is a powerful tool. But right now, it’s not being used to its potential. By ending net neutrality, we can finally use the internet to advance humans.

  23. Thomas Cullen November 15, 2013 at 12:04 am #

    The issue of net neutrality is extremely important in this day and age of technology and the growing importance of the internet. I feel that the actions telecom industries are extremely unethical because they are basically taking the role as a gatekeeper for what people can and cannot access online. Its not that the actions that they are saying they will do is extremely bad; slowing down certain website access on their customers internet is bad but it could be much worse. My point is that they could abuse this power by outright blocking content that they deem controversial enough to warrant this. Blocking the free slow if information is against people’s first amendment rights, and it is another form of censorship. This was exactly the reason why SOPA and PIPA were shot down in Congress, there were questions over the ambiguity of the bills because there was no balance of power between the telecom providers and consumers.
    If the court does in fact rule in a manner which destroys net neutrality, I feel like this could be a great entrepreneurial opportunity because there will be a demand for internet without the restrictions that would be placed on the internet. The only hurdles that I would see to these small-time internet providers is the issue of hardware and infrastructure. The major telecom industries would not allow other competitors to compete with them on their own cables going to their houses, therefore the only logical way to deliver the third party internet is via satellites. Either way, it would be a shame and a step in the wrong direction if net neutrality was lost.

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