The concept of an “open internet”, or net neutrality, keeps internet service providers , or ISPs, from being able to alter how users are able to access web content. Specifically, it bans ISPs from being able to create internet “fast-lanes” or slow download speeds for web content that they wish to direct users away from. President Obama stated that he supports an “open internet” last year, three months before the Federal Communications Commission, or the FCC, was able to have rules enforcing net neutrality approved. Now, though, representatives from the telecommunications industry have come out in opposition of those rules, leading to the FCC to have to defend net neutrality in court this past Friday.

The FCC was originally able to get the “open internet” rules approved earlier this year by classifying ISPs as utility providers. This distinction gives the FCC more power to regulate ISPs. While the FCC believes that net neutrality supports businesses by keeping web services competitive, the telecommunications industry states that the new rules give the FCC too much control over the broadband market, hindering free enterprise instead of helping. Lawyers representing the views of the telecommunications industry argued that instead of being classified as utility providers, ISPs should be classified under information services, like Google. This classification would lessen the FCC’s ability so regulate ISPs and render the net neutrality rules inapplicable. The FCC argues, however, that without rules enforcing an “open internet”, ISPs will have too much power to promote certain web content over others. This could potentially hinder development and investment of new web content.

These arguments were presented to a panel of three judges who will release a decision in the spring which may approve or reject parts of the net neutrality rules.

Article via Buzzfeed, December 4, 2015

Photo: Protest at the White House for Net Neutrality via Joseph Gruber [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]