Yesterday, a U.S. appeals court ruled against the FCC's net neutrality regulations, which sought to force service providers to treat all Internet traffic the same. Internet freedom advocates consider the ruling a major defeat, while companies including Verizon, AT&T and Comcast are the clear winners. How will the average Web surfer be affected?
Service providers would like to be able to charge data hogs more for usage -- or slow down their file transfers, so not to hinder other network traffic. Even though the Internet seems like a magical technology with no limits, there actually are physical constraints and costs that service providers need to worry about. This FCC ruling allows them to better manage their networks accordingly.
But if the Internet goes completely unregulated, then there is a potential for those companies to take advantage of the system. Wired imagines one such scenario:
A broadband company could, for instance, ink a deal with Microsoft to transfer all attempts to reach Google.com to Bing.com. The only recourse a user would have, under the ruling, would be to switch to a different provider -- assuming, of course, they had an alternative to switch to.
Far-fetched? Yes. Impossible? No.