US kills net neutrality, will it curb innovation?

Today, the court has struck down rules imposed by the Federal Communications Commission regarding Net Neutrality. The court argued that the FCC didn’t have the regulatory ability to treat ISP’s as common carriers, for they weren’t telephone companies.

Gigaom has more details on the ruling as well as listing winners and losers.

Speaking of winners and losers, the biggest losers in this is the consumer, and not just because of the ruling. The idea of throttling Internet traffic to prevent competition irks my Libertarian side quite a bit.

Unfortunately, there are those who prefer not to have competition or a market that’s truly free, but crony capitalism instead. So what could potentially happen with this ruling?

For starters, companies like Netflix may have to pay companies more just to be able to have their streaming service operate at an optimal level. Comcast won’t be able to discriminate against traffic due to an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission when it purchased NBC-Universal until at least 2017.

Companies such as Vonage may have more trouble competing with traditional phone companies as well as mobile providers due to throttling of data speed.  Even with deep pockets, paying to make sure a particular service plays nice on a given ISP’s network will inevitably cause the price of said service to rise.

Though the FCC would be able to change the rules in order to be able to enforce Net Neutrality, there is a question of whether or not it will do so.  At the moment, the regulatory agency appears to be taking a wait and see approach, though an appeal is possible.

I prefer free markets, as in ones that are truly free where competition can thrive. Like having a jogging buddy, it makes things more pleasant in terms of innovation. However, I’m noticing a trend in overly relying on politicians and bureaucrats.

Given the revelations of one Edward Snowden, I ask if such a move is prudent at this point. After all, advocacy groups are relying on the same bureaucrats who have been involved in blatantly violating the first, fourth, and fifth amendment rights in the United States in the name of “national security.”

Is it wise to look to these same people to keep Net Neutrality intact? The EFF was hesitant over the FCC attempting to impose such rules in the first place, because of the history of civil liberties violations.

Rebecca Jeschke, the Media Relations Director of EFF, said via e-mail:

EFF is not surprised at the court’s decision. There was much of value in the FCC’s Open Internet Principles, and we still think those principles are a good starting point for conversation. But we were deeply concerned that the FCC was attempting to claim broad authority to regulate the Internet.  No government agency should have that authority, so we are glad this decision clarifies that.  As we look towards the future, Internet users need to have a pragmatic and open discussion about ways to promote and defend a neutral Internet. In the meantime, ISPs must comply with their transparency obligations so that customers can see if their Internet providers are giving them the non-discriminatory service they expect and deserve.

So what’s the solution? All that I ask is that you look in the mirror, for you are it.

Yes, there are people who meet behind closed doors and try to slice up the world for not just money, but control of particular markets. These same people feel a sense of power in doing so.

In the words of former CIA agent Robert Steele, “They only have power if you let them.”

After all, did the DeCSS court case involving 2600 Magazine stop individuals from being able to watch legally purchased DVD’s on their Linux-based systems?  Absolutely not!

Encouraging the use of Tor with VPN’s may be a step in the right direction. If an ISP has no idea what you’re doing, it makes it harder for them to throttle your usage.

The more people are on Tor, the faster it will get.

There’s also the possibility of creating grassroots ISP’s that could rival Google Fiber in terms of speed, but here’s the kicker; people have to be willing to go through with the idea.

The part of the equation that has been missing for a long time is the idea of people caring enough about each other to ensure that concepts such as Net Neutrality not only survive, but thrive.

Rules can be made over and over again. Unfortunately, rules have a tendency to change depending on who is in any given office.

That’s why it takes more than just “voting the bums out” to make the necessary changes for technological innovation.  The solution must start with you, the individual.

About Thomas Holbrook II

Thomas first encountered FOSS while visiting the University of Central Missouri (then known as Central Missouri State University) during high school. Mandrake was the first distribution he ever attempted to run. He has had experience with SuSE, Red Hat, Fedora, Ubuntu, and other distros. He currently does a podcast each week and publishes a monthly digital magazine covering Unix and Overlooked Pop Culture at

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