A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission lacks the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks.
Note that it is an appeals court, not the Supreme Court, but I find it a bad omen.
I believe that cable providers and other ISPs should be viewed as utilities who provide the pipes. They shouldn’t be able to restrict or shut off the pipes for content or content-providers they don’t like and open them for those they do want.
I think that the issue for the ISPs is controlling access to entertainment media, and not to, say, websites like Geekazine. Comcast has a number of cable channels and entertainment companies under its control and is trying to add more. It has also been trying to convert its cable internet website into a portal.
I don’t think the ISPs by and large are interested in censoring content, so much as in finding ways to charge extra for it, in addition to the monthly connection fees users already pay.
That won’t affect much of my internet use, because I do not use the internet to watch television shows and movies. Nevertheless, I find the idea that ISPs could give favorable treatment to some content over other content is troubling.
One might argue that magazines, newspapers, and even radio and television have controlled access to content for years by deciding what to include and what to exclude. That is certainly true and was dictated by the nature of the media.
The content space in print or even broadcast media is severely limited. There are only so many pages in a periodical and only so many hours in the broadcast day.
The internet knows not those limits and any attempt to impose artificial limits causes me concern.
Full Disclousure: I was a happy Comcast user for many years.
Whatever complaints I may have about the policies of Comcast management, the company gave me six years of rock-solid cable internet service. Before they acquired their predecessor in my area, cable outages were routine. Comcast promised to upgrade the system and did. In recent years, cable outages have occurred only when someone drove into a light pole.