The concept of net neutrality has been an important issue for many online businesses as well as advocates pushing to maintain a free, more open internet. On Tuesday, hopes of maintaining net neutrality in the United States were extremely diminished. A federal appeals court struck down the Federal Communications Commission order requiring internet service providers to abide by the rules of an open web, brought forth by Verizon's suit against the FCC (Verizon v. FCC).
The new decision means that the corporations that control access to the internet can now determine how different websites are treated, with internet service providers (ISPs) tweaking loading times and other factors according to their own judgement.
A new graphic circulating around the web demonstrates how an ISP’s new pricing options might work if they fully take advantage of the system created by the new ruling. According to the Huffington Post, the graphic was created by a Reddit user named quink in 2009 when Comcast fought against the FCC’s order, but has seen a resurgence due to Verizon's recent success in the appeals court.
The primary criticism of the ruling is that it allows ISPs to promise websites quicker loading times or more seamless content delivery in exchange for money. If Verizon wanted to cut a deal with YouTube, for instance, they could allow that site to load more quickly than similar sites offered by competitors.
Huffington Post also points out that quink’s graphic is comparable to cable television distribution. Many cable channels are given to subscribers in “bundles,” and adding new channels requires further payment. ISPs could potentially apply the same method of distribution to the internet.
Because the internet has historically been relatively open and free for users as well as businesses, the ruling could have a drastic effect on how business is conducted online. Of course, that history may also hint towards the idea that companies will be resistant and not much will change. The Atlantic seems to think that users are overreacting to the ruling, as the corporation-dominated, closed internet depicted in the graphic is unlikely to truly occur.
What will actually happen remains to be seen.