Courts say the Internet is a utility, not a luxury

Will Facebook have to pay a toll to get on the internet in the future?
Will Facebook have to pay a toll to get on the internet in the future?

Do you consider the internet a luxury? Well, neither does the F.C.C. and better yet, neither does the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit which today said high-speed internet service is a utility and should be equally accessible to all Americans.

In other words, it upheld what  is commonly referred to as net neutrality, which prohibits broadband companies from blocking or slowing the delivery of internet content to consumers.

And why would they slow things down? Why else? Money.

Providers want to charge “tolls” for access. Consider how much longer it would take you to get from point A to point B if you had to take local roads rather than a super highway that charged. You’d reach your destination either way, but free roads would slow you down.

Delaying delivery even by nano seconds can cost companies millions of dollars in revenue. The court today said the internet is a service that should be equally accessible to all Americans, rather than a luxury that does not need close government supervision.

Don’t get too comfy, though.  AT&T immediately said it would continue to fight. Cable and telecom industries have signaled they would fight all the way to the Supreme Court if needed.

Why should small business and non-profits care either way?

If an Internet Service Provider (ISP) “suggests” Facebook or  Amazon pay an additional fee in order to deliver their data faster and they agree, this  buys them an advantage over smaller and now slower-moving competition.

If they don’t agree, will the ISP slow down their delivery?

Currently small biz and non profits have a chance to succeed because anyone can access their website as easily as their competitors. Without net neutrality, a small-business owner be left with a much smaller market.

According to the, instead of being able to sell to anyone with an internet connection, fledgling entrepreneurs would find their customers limited to those who paid for the “internet package” that covers access to their particular website. It would be like your cable TV plan: The more you pay, the more channels you receive.

So, stay tuned.

To read more and check out a cool graphic  the NYTimes website, click here.

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