Concern for the future of net neutrality

An appeals court in the US has made a ruling that could throw the future of net neutrality into doubt, sparking fears that “open internet” is not achievable.

Those who are aware of what net neutrality means will be concerned by the ruling, but this is something that the average user will not necessarily understand. The internet was originally designed so that all information that passed through the networks would be treated equally. Neutrality was able to keep entry barriers to the network to a minimum. However, this general principle has also created some inflexibility.

The way the internet works is that data is broken down to be sent to its destination, and when it arrives, it is reassembled into its original format. In the early days of the internet, the files that were sent were usually emails and document files. However, when new innovations such VOIP and streaming of both audio and video files emerged, providers gave them priority so that quality would not be affected.

Neutrality was then abandoned as service providers offered faster services for videos and sites were charged more for the privilege. The recent court case supports the providers that do this because it is not illegal. A public consultation brought in many public comments and longer, more complex comments drafted by lawyers on behalf of large corporations. There is concern that the service providers’ comments will carry more weight with the FCC, and small businesses such as virtual telephone answering reception services will be penalised for needing faster broadband services.