As a result of the Comcast Corp. v. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) court decision, Internet service providers (ISPs) are no longer constrained from slowing or blocking certain data or access to sites that offer content that conflicts with the providers’ interests. One possible consequence may be that such roadblocks could prevent potential Internet innovators from gaining widespread market acceptance.
While any issue involving government authority over private industry should raise deep concerns, there needs to be at least limited government oversight to keep the internet as free and open as possible – a totally free market in this case won’t benefit consumers and future innovators since many providers from a geographical standpoint are natural monopolies. Many consumers have few choices if they don’t like their service or the price they pay for it, as many areas only have one broadband internet provider.
Natural monopolies and tiered pricing give ISPs little incentive to upgrade data transmission capabilities. Akamai’s State of The Internet report for the fourth quarter of 2009 ranked the United States 14th in Internet speed. It’s now fair to ask if the U.S. will fall further behind in light of this ruling.
The FCC may try to reclassify broadband as a Title II common carrier service, which would invite many more legal battles with ISPs. Rather than wait years for the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the issue, those who believe in Net Neutrality must petition their Congressfolk to give the FCC clear authority to oversee ISPs -- and fast.