Maryann Tobin

The US Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit decided in favor of Verizon Tuesday, overturning the Federal Communications Commission’s Net neutrality rules. In doing so, the Internet freedom Americans once knew is under serious threat.

If ever there were an example of how deregulation can crush freedom, this is it. The decision allows Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to sell priority bandwidth speeds to some websites and slow others to a crawl. The implications and potential for abuse are enormous.

Under net neutrality, ISPs were required to provide equal access to all websites, or remain “neutral” when it came to providing bandwidth to different sites. Under the court’s ruling, ISPs like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T can sell higher bandwidth speeds to companies willing and able to pay. They can also slow access to websites that are competitors for their own products, effectively creating mini-monopolies for in-house services and apps.

The potential for abuse is very real and can lead to higher consumer fees and very limited access to millions of small companies and personal websites. Even political content expressing views that do not agree with the ISP’s could be restricted without Net neutrality rules.

According to Save the Internet:

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).

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement that they will consider appealing the decision, which was largely based on the 2010 Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which exempted broadband providers from common carrier regulations.

However, winning the appeal is a long shot, especially considering the deregulation fever that has swept through Washington, as well as the conservative makeup of the Supreme Court and the activist, pro-corporate rulings they have supported over the past several years.

The demon of deregulation

The loss of Net neutrality rules is an indicator of where corporate deregulation can take America and the world. Free choice is being sold to the highest bidder and there seems to be little consumers can do to stop it. In this case, as with so many others, the one with the most money wins. That leaves most Americans out of the democratic process and instead holds them captive to corporate control and censorship.

America is harboring a group of people who call themselves free market capitalists who are actually seeking ways to create monopolies. That’s what deregulation is really all about.

Piece by piece, multinational conglomerates, with the help of the US government and courts, are stealing Americans’ privacy, limiting choices, and selling access to economic opportunity. The less control consumers have over information access, the more freedom is lost.

During oral arguments last week, the Huffington Post noted:

Verizon lawyer Helgi Walker made the company's intentions all too clear, saying the company wants to prioritize those websites and services that are willing to shell out for better access.

She also admitted that the company would like to block online content from those companies or individuals that don't pay Verizon's tolls.

Think about it. A year from now, or at some other point in the future, you might not have access to this article because your ISP doesn’t agree with the content. That’s what deregulation is all about; corporate power over autonomy.

Still want to vote for a candidate selling more deregulation?

Author’s note: The opinions and commentary included in this report are based on the author’s original reporting and independent analysis of official documents and public information.

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Sources and more info:

Fears over 'two tier internet' grow after appeals court rejects rules that all internet traffic must be treated equally

Circuit Court Of Appeals Strikes Down FCC’s Open Internet Order, Net Neutrality Threatened

Verizon win Over FCC on Internet rules could raise user fees

Court ruling overturns Net Neutrality, threatens online access, experts warn

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