On Jan. 14, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order.
In other words, Net Neutrality is dead (for now).
The open Internet rules, adopted in 2010, were designed to prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or slowing users’ connections to online content and apps.
This ruling means that just a few powerful phone and cable companies could control the Internet. Without Net Neutrality, ISPs will be able to devise new schemes to charge users more for access and services, making it harder for us to communicate online — and easier for companies to censor our speech. The Internet could come to resemble cable TV, where gatekeepers exert control over where you go and what you see.
Without Net Neutrality, ISPs like AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon will be able to block content and speech they don’t like, reject apps that compete with their own offerings, and prioritize Web traffic (reserving the fastest loading speeds for the highest bidders and sticking everyone else with the slowest).
The tools ISPs use to block and control our communications aren’t different from the ones the NSA uses to watch us. Whether it’s a government or a corporation wielding these tools or the two working together, this behavior breaks the Internet as we know it and makes it less open and secure.
We must fight to ensure that the Internet we love won’t simply become a platform for corporate speech or another tool for government spying. We must protect the Internet that lets us connect and create, that rejects censorship and values our right to privacy.
The Internet shouldn’t be a walled garden. It should remain a forum for innovation and free expression. As so many startups and political activists know, open, affordable, fast and universal communications networks are essential to our individual, economic and political futures.