How Yesterday's Ruling Could Alter the Web Forever

Users could see higher costs for services—or lose access to sites
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2014 7:56 AM CST
How Yesterday's Ruling Could Alter the Web Forever
This Jan. 29, 2010, file photo, shows the company logo and view of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Yesterday was the day net neutrality died, with a court ruling that Internet service providers aren't bound by FCC non-discrimination rules—so they can prioritize some traffic over others. The decision may mean major changes for the everyday user, and today, media sites are offering the details. Among their warnings:

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that the decision could have a huge impact on sites like Netflix and YouTube, whose video services hog a lot of bandwidth (they account for 32% and 19% of peak web traffic, respectively). If ISPs start making Netflix, for instance, pay a usage fee to maintain speedy content delivery, that cost could make a serious dent in its profits—or trickle down to consumers.

  • ISPs could charge sites big fees in exchange for faster content delivery, potentially giving giants who can pay, like Amazon, a big leg up over independent retailers—not to mention other small businesses, the Huffington Post notes. Providers might even go so far as to prioritize traffic to partner sites—Time Warner might push CNN, for example.
  • Another anti-competitive fear, via BuzzFeed: Big companies might start paying your data fees for the use of their sites. That might sound good—free data?—but it would mean that companies with the ability to pay would have a major advantage over start-ups in winning users. As BuzzFeed points out, "If, in this future, you're choosing between two streaming music services, and one of them pays for your data, there's a very good chance you’re going to pick that one."
  • Beyond concerns over fees, there are worries that providers could block certain websites completely: Comcast users could theoretically end up with no access to, say, Netflix or Vonage, writes Troy Wolverton in the San Jose Mercury News.
  • But net neutrality, in some form, may live to see another day, the Journal notes, reporting that the ruling "left open the door for the FCC to craft rules in a different form that might accomplish its earlier intentions."
(Read more FCC stories.)

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