A pending court decision could change the way the Internet works—and end the freedom now enjoyed by those who build it. The country's second-highest federal court is considering a case on net neutrality, the principle that says service providers like AT&T and Verizon can't discriminate against certain websites and apps, making them harder for users to access—in effect, adding "tollbooths, fast lanes, and dirt roads" to what was once an "information superhighway," Marvin Ammori explains at Wired.
A 2010 FCC rule protects this neutrality, but judges may be about to destroy it. In court, Verizon is battling the FCC on the measure, and judges' comments and questions so far have "made clear" that they intend to rule in favor of the companies' ability to discriminate. What does this mean? "Web and mobile companies will live or die not on the merits of their technology and design, but on the deals they can strike with AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and others," Ammori writes. The providers "will be able to deliver some sites and services more quickly and reliably than others for any reason. Whim. Envy. Ignorance." Judges could still "miraculously" uphold net neutrality. If not, get ready for the end of "the Internet as we know it." Click for Ammori's full piece. (Read more Internet stories.)