Since the January 14 D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the FCC's net neutrality rules in the case of Verizon vs. FCC, the Internet has buzzed with doomsday articles -- as espoused by the Los Angeles Times' not-so-subtle piece, "Net neutrality is dead. Bow to Comcast and Verizon, your overlords."
If this sounds like Chicken Little and "The sky is falling down," it's because it is.
What is net neutrality?
Even the FCC -- the organization that tasked itself with regulating net neutrality (also known as open Internet) - has set broad terms to define it, and lays out three main rules:
1. Transparency: Broadband providers must disclose information regarding their network management practices, performance, and the commercial terms of their broadband services;
2. No Blocking: Fixed broadband providers (such as DSL, cable modem or fixed wireless providers) may not block lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices. Mobile broadband providers may not block lawful websites, or applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services;
3. No Unreasonable Discrimination: Fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic over a consumer's broadband Internet access service. The no blocking and no unreasonable discrimination rules are subject to limited exceptions for 'reasonable network management.'
Fear of the "Big Boys"
The FCC claims that cable and telecommunications companies need government regulation -- such as the net neutrality rules -- to ensure that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do not block content to users that might be considered direct competitors to their services.
However, the FCC hasn't given examples in which ISPs block or slow traffic to sites, widgets or apps they were biased against. Customers would flock to their competitors in droves if this was the case.
According to reason.tv, companies such as Verizon work with each other to keep online information moving quickly -- and maintain customer satisfaction with their network speed.
What would ISPs have to gain if they intentionally give consumers a poor Internet experience?
The effect on consumers and small business?
In short, nothing!
ISPs give consumers net neutrality without government interference. The strike against the FCC's governance of net neutrality is -- as reason.tv points out --a good thing for the free market.
With a market unhindered by clumsy regulation from a large government entity, healthy competition between ISPs is possible. And as any economist will tell you, an open and free market -- not government regulation -- encourages growth, innovation and small business.
Image courtesy of OrangeSparrow/Creative Commons