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Recent ruling threatens net neutrality

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Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) had limited power to control the actions of Internet service providers. The decision reversed an earlier FCC ruling in August 2008 that had promoted net neutrality

The earlier ruling declared it illegal for Comcast Corp. and other Internet service providers to restrict or block content online. The issue arose after Comcast was caught blocking users that where using file sharing programs to download big movie files. Comcast had voiced concern that these file sharing programs were causing huge slow downs for other users trying to connect to the same Internet.

The court ruling from last week’s hearings will make the FCC’s previous decision —that restricting and blocking content is illegal—no longer true. The panel of judges ruled that the FCC does not have the legal power to order these providers to stop interfering with consumers’ access to services. In other words, Internet service providers, like Comcast and Time Warner, can now slow down, speed up and block certain Web sites at their own will with out facing any legal repercussions.

As college students, it is undeniable that the Internet has changed the way we operate in our day-to-day lives. Whether through checking our e-mail accounts or Facebook pages, reading breaking news online or registering for classes, we have become increasingly dependent upon the Internet.

What’s more important than our reliance on the Internet is what the Internet can do. The Internet makes us all equal. Whether it’s a service, an item or a program, people now have the ability to create something, spread it and even sometimes make money from it, without having to fight big corporations just to be heard.

A large majority of us will spend the rest of our lives working with the Internet in some capacity and we cannot allow our Internet use to be inhibited by major corporations. This court ruling, that allows service providers to control the Internet, threatens to destroy the equality that makes the Internet such an incredible tool.

People have already expressed concern that major companies will able to unfairly control and restrict online content. For example Comcast, which is in the midst of merging with NBC Universal, will have the ability to slow down or even block content from competitors. It could then make its content, like news from msnbc.com or videos on Hulu, easier to view, give favor to users that subscribe to its Internet service and essentially, limit our exposure and access to diverse and valuable content.

During his campaign, President Barack Obama promised to put laws in place to protect the Internet from these threats. The Obama administration has yet to pass any legislation, but this most recent decision intensifies the need for government action to protect the quality of Internet content and our right to view it.

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Recent ruling threatens net neutrality