Bad news for the open internet, folks; a federal appeals court judge has begun chipping away at the protections erected in 2010 by the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality act.
Judge David Tatel has ruled that the FCC can't prevent Verizon and other internet service providers from giving preference to some websites over others, potentially slowing speeds to sites they don't like.
Apparently modern internet service providers, unlike older telecom companies, aren't considered "common carriers" and thus the FCC's rules don't technically apply to them, according to Tatel.
So according to the court, the FCC can't require Verizon or others to keep their service neutral.
Free Press President Craig Aaron told The Verge last year that part of the problem is that former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski - though well-meaning - "failed to ground [the] Open Internet rules on solid legal footing."
Thanks to Verizon's challenge net neutrality is eroding out from under us.
But Tatel agreed with the FCC that net neutrality rules help promote broadband growth, one of the rules main objectives. And he agreed that without open internet laws, providers will likely start charging for priority access to certain content and/or blocking competing or disagreeable content.
There is one caveat, as Tatel upheld the rule requiring carriers to at least disclose what sites they're throttling or blocking altogether. Small blessings, right?
Current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said today that the commission will "consider all available options, including those for appeal."
Verizon issued a statement following the ruling as well saying, "One thing is for sure: today's decision will not change consumers' ability to access and use the internet as they do now.
"The court's decision will allow more room for innovation, and consumers will have more choices to determine for themselves how they access and experience the internet. Verizon has been and remains committed to the open internet that provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where, and how they want. This will not change in light of the court's decision."
Update: President Barack Obama "remains committed to an open internet," according to a White House official as reported by The Hill.
The executive branch is still reviewing the court's ruling, and said it will work with the FCC, Congress and committed the private sector "to preserve a free and open internet." Again, nice reassurances.
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