Net neutrality ruling stricken down in US court

14 Jan 2014

In a move which could have an enormous effect on how much consumers pay for online services, the US appeals court has ruled out the American Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) argument in favour of net neutrality.

With the decision to turn down the FCC’s appeal for prohibiting internet providers from blocking or prioritising web traffic, Internet users who stream content or purchase services online can expect to see increased prices put on the consumer to compensate increased charges by internet providers against online businesses.

As part of the ruling made nearly four years ago, the FCC wanted to prevent major internet providers like Verizon from slowing down websites or charging companies like Netflix more for increased traffic through their service. This will inevitably have a knock-on effect for consumers as companies charge extra to make-up the extra cost.

The same goes for any other site where traffic is particularly high like Amazon, YouTube or Google itself.

FCC ruling illegal

The decision came in a Washington Court room presided over by a panel of 3 judges including Circuit Judge David Tatel who was nominated as spokesperson for the decision.

In their statement, Judge Tatel said that the law prohibited the FCC from enforcing a law that did not exist in the statute books: “Given that the commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the commission from nonetheless regulating them as such.”

The FCC has criticised the decision and will consider further appeals for what it sees as the erosion of American civil liberties as written in the US Constitution.

Chairperson of the FCC, Thomas Wheeler, had this to say in response to the decision:  “I am committed to maintaining our networks as engines for economic growth, test beds for innovative services and products, and channels for all forms of speech protected by the First Amendment.

“We will consider all available options, including those for appeal, to ensure that these networks on which the internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans.”

Global internet image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic