The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission could not enforce its so-called net-neutrality rules, which prohibit internet service providers from restricting access to legal Web content. That seems like a fair decision.
The idea of net neutrality has been debated for several years. Internet service providers have wanted the ability to charge so-called “bandwidth hogs” more for Web access than they charge ordinary users. At the time the argument began, some of these bandwidth hogs literally were taking up so much available space that small users, or many rural users, were finding that the messages they sent or received were slowed or blocked by what the larger users were sending.
Many of us remember those slow Internet days, when access to the Web was balky. Big users of the Internet were blamed for this slowness, as 18-wheeler trucks are blamed for slowing traffic on a freeway.
It was a situation where the use of the service had surpassed the service’s ability to take care of all its customers.
In 2010, the FCC imposed rules blocking the Internet service providers from imposing tolls for high-bandwidth use.
By then, however, technology had caught up with demand, and anyone with broadband service — which today is the majority of users — found that they had ready access to a faster Internet, while the carriers found they could accommodate the bigger users, such as Netflix.
The problem the rules had meant to solve had mostly gone away.
But the service providers still don’t like the rules, because they don’t know what will happen in the future — which is why they sought, and won, at least for now, a ban on the FCC’s mandates.
Their cause was just, in the sense that while the Internet is open to all, the access to it isn’t. The access, like a telephone land-line, belongs to the provider.
The providers say they will respect the rules for another six years, regardless. But after that, with the speed of technology as it is, one never knows what’s coming.