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In case you missed the news a Federal Appeals Court ruled this week on if the FCC has the authority to dictate to Internet Providers how the manage the data being sent through their networks. In 2007 the FCC judged that Comcast could not throttle or delay certain types of traffic such as Bit Torrent, a type of file transfer, however Comcast argued the FCC did not have the authority to make such a ruling or issue any fines. This week a D.C. Appeals Court agreed with Comcast that the FCC’s statutory authority does not extend into how ISP’s manage their network traffic or content.

Now on to why this has any bearing on your day to day life or business.

The term Net Neutrality in it’s basic form means all traffic on a public network (Internet) must be treat equally. This means your video watching of YouTube and your neighbors online gaming both must travel across the Internet unencumbered by traffic management which places one type of web use above another. Sounds simple and basic enough right? Well ISP’s argue that for one they need to manage their networks to provide quality service to all customers and if one customer or type of use is putting a strain on the system they need to be allowed to adjust that traffic so all users get acceptable access. Well that also sounds reasonable enough doesn’t it? Thus the problem, should all access be equal or should an ISP be able to control the bandwidth so all users get reasonable performance.

Now for the Dark Side. Let’s say ISPs such as Comcast and Time Warner have certain content on the web. As a Road Runner customer I find I can access that Time Warner content extremely fast but when I try to watch something Comcast is providing I find it’s horribly slow, hmm, is it fair for Road Runner to slow down access to competitive services or product? Better yet let’s say a Road Runner calls up Google who owns YouTube and says, “we need you to start paying for the amount of data people are using to view your content or we will start slowing that content delivery down. Don’t forget Google is saying they want to drop fiber in a couple of cities and those cities are bending over backwards to get Google’s money but what if Google did lay fiber in say Winston-Salem then turned around and only allowed high speed access to Google services and slowed down access to everything else? Well I think it would be easy to argue none of us think either of those situations would be a good idea.

So should we be upset that the courts ruled the FCC doesn’t have the right to say no to either of the above thus giving the FCC carte blanche to be the sole authority on how network bandwidth is provided? To steal a movie line from a great movie , “I Think NOT!” and the reason is simple, the so called Fairness Doctrine and it’s new Obama appointed Czar, The Chief Diversity Officer. Now I’m not going to get all political in this however it should be noted that if the court had let the FCC’s argument stand then there is absolutely nothing to stop the FCC from saying there has to be not only equal access to the networks but the content on the web must also be equal in it’s “diversity”. Now this is a very scary thought that a group of unelected officials could in fact determine if you get to listen to Rush Limbaugh online because there would have to be an equal liberal voice so as to keep the Internet “diverse”. Let’s bring it even further down to the local level let’s say you run a website where you share your political views but to keep things “diverse” you would be forced to have an equal amount of opposing content. Okay you think that’s absurd the FCC could not ever do that however if the ruling had stood they could have in fact done just that. Your church website could have been ordered to put up links to gay websites, local bars, Las Vegas casinos or anything else because everything had to be equal and “diverse”.

Sure, sure the above would have hopefully never happened however by allowing a commission to expand it’s powers beyond what our elected officials have given them we have to assume the worse since who knows what could happen and we would have had no recourse. By the courts stepping in the concept of Net Neutrality is now tossed back to Congress where hopefully we will have public and well as industry input to come up with rules which are fair but more importantly have a system of checks and balances. Should Road Runner be able to slow down Skype because Road Runner sells VOIP or should you be able to watch MSNBC or FOX at equal speeds and who is to be the judge and jury of that is not something we want a few beltway insiders to determine.

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