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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Net Neutrality" Defeated

There is a situation I have been following (not very closely) with what is called "net neutrality", a doctrine in which internet providers are not allowed to determine which internet traffic their subscribers will or will not be allowed to access. The FCC has been attempting to enforce this doctrine, and internet providers, in this case Comcast, have sued to prevent them from enforcing it. In a ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals, it has been determined that the FCC does not have the authority to enforce net neutrality, thus freeing up ComCast to block any internet traffic they see fit to block. Comcast's motive appears to be a desire to block heavy bandwidth usage by applications such as Bittorrent (which they blocked, resulting in the FCC ruling that they could not), however, the implications go far beyond that. Let's say that a lot of Comcast users use Google as their search engine. Comcast decides they want "a piece of the action" and threatens Google with blockage unless Google ponies up a fee. Google tells them to stuff it, and Comcast users can no longer access Google. The implications are even worse for independent internent content providers, who will no doubt be unable to afford the the extortion payment. Multiply that by the number of major internet providers (AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner cable, etc), and small providers will be sunk.

Unless this ruling is reversed in the Supreme Court, the only recourse we have is for Comcast subscribers to vote with their feet and go elsewhere.

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