HARI SREENIVASAN (Newshour): Net neutrality is the idea that broadband Internet service providers, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and others, should treat everything that flows across the Internet equally. That means preventing service providers from creating fast lanes for sites they have business ties with, such as streaming video services like Hulu or Netflix, and slowing access to others, like Amazon.
It also means not charging more for YouTube and other sites based on their heavier bandwidth use or in exchange for faster speeds, all of which could affect what consumers see online, how fast, and at what price. The principles were set out by the Federal Communications Commission nearly a decade ago.
The agency enshrined them in its Open Internet Order adopted in 2010. But Verizon sued to challenge the agency's authority, and, yesterday, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found the FCC acted improperly. The 81-page ruling said the agency is wrong to classify Internet service providers as information services, but at the same time regulate them as common carriers, meaning as it does telephone and utility companies.
While the FCC decides whether to appeal, Amazon and others are watching to see if the broadband networks impose their own rules, favoring some content companies over others.
For its part, Verizon issued a statement yesterday that said, in part: "Verizon has been and remains committed to the open Internet. This will not change in light of the court's decision."
The ruling doesn't apply to wireless services accessed through mobile devices, which represent a growing share of the market.