By Kuper Jones
Last week the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals made an important ruling in favor of a free and unfettered internet. The high profile case, Verizon v. FCC, has been the focal point of the net neutrality debate. The determination is a significant blow to the 2010 Open Internet Order as it strips some of its most harmful provisions. While the FCC was dealt a serious setback, the ruling still leaves ample room for revised net neutrality regulations that would still threaten internet openness.
On a positive note, the court decision removed overreaching regulations that stripped internet service providers of the right to manage their networks and the kind of traffic that passes through their servers. This ruling could allow the industry to continue down the path of growth and consumer driven innovation that flourished prior to the excessive regulations enactment. Proponents of the regulation argue that without this rule ISPs will charge content providers fees for priority traffic, thereby harming consumers. However, in reality, such fees would likely reflect consumer demand; thereby allowing ISPs to invest in infrastructure where needed and provide consumers with better services.
Unfortunately, the court’s decision does not mean the end of net neutrality. The court declared the FCC still has broad authority to govern broadband internet as well as other forms of telecommunications. For now, consumers can enjoy this short-term victory, but the FCC may return to the drawing board with the power affirmed by the court. This far-reaching authority is alarming and creates a lot of uncertainty regarding the future of internet regulation. Only time will tell how the FCC will utilize this power and whether they will keep the internet open.