What role should a wireless Internet provider play in delivering the Web to its subscriber base? It’s a question that’s at the heart of the entire Net Neutrality debate, the answer to which, despite your stance on an open and free Internet, will likely have a significant effect on your online experience going forward.
To the point, in addition to Verizon taking the FCC to court over the legal inability of the latter to create and enforce Net Neutrality standards, Verizon is also fighting for more control over how the Internet is delivered to you.
To put it this way, the FCC sees wireless providers as simply a new version of the telecommunications company, companies that a generation or two ago were mandated to provide customers with unobstructed access to telephone voice communication. Carriers like Verizon, however, see themselves more like a newspaper, exercising their First Amendment Rights to control the Internet by editing your online access.
The intent of the FCC’s laudable Net Neutrality standards has always been to keep the Internet out of the hands of carriers, avoiding issues like arbitrary network management (throttling) and gate-keeping (controlling and editing content). While the former has been a very public issue for several years now, the latter is finally coming to light as a serious threat to open and unobstructed access to the Web.
In the brief meant to block the FCC’s open Internet standards Verizon argues that wireless providers inherently have ‘editorial discretion,’ operating more like a newspaper—who edit what content is delivered to the public—rather than like a public service—such as a traditional telecommunication company.
In performing these functions [providing the transmission of speech], broadband providers possess “editorial discretion.”
Just as a newspaper is entitled to decide which content to publish and where, broadband providers may feature some content over others.
What Verizon is ultimately fighting for is 1) the ability to prioritize search results based on its own judgment, delivering search results and other content to the user that it deems relevant, and 2) the ability to control Internet access.
It doesn’t take Nostradamus to see where Verizon is going with this. Once it has the ability to prioritize favourites in search queries, it won’t be long before those ‘favourite’ spots will be sold to the highest bidder, meaning that your search queries will deliver results based on who has paid Verizon the most, not what is the most relevant to you.
Further, it will open the door for tiered Internet access, meaning that users will undoubtedly have to pay more if they want the executive Internet access package, otherwise it might be hit or miss in regards to how much bandwidth you’ll be able to access, directly effecting your entire online experience (if you’re an online gamer for instance).
Should this happen, you might say, I’ll just switch to another carrier; a worthy solution except for the fact that should Verizon be granted the ability to edit your Internet, every carrier will quickly follow suit, meaning there simply won’t be any options available for customers who desire a free and open Internet.