A slowdown for net speeds

A federal appeals court decision cast a shadow over net neutrality.

Not all bandwidths are created equal. At least, thatâÄôs how the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia would have it. Last week, that body ruled that the Federal Communications Commission did not have the authority to regulate Internet service providersâÄô ability to selectively restrict access to Web sites. The FCC, which last fall took laudable regulatory steps in the direction of a more transparent, equal-access Internet, also recently unveiled its National Broadband Plan aimed at dramatically increasing national access to broadband. This new ruling could seriously obstruct their goals. Internet users would ideally be able to vote with their dollars on this issue; if one ISP were to impose a âÄútoll roadâÄù on bandwidth, customers could simply opt for a different provider. However, consumers need antitrust legislation to break up entrenched oligopolies like Comcast. Customers right now simply donâÄôt have enough options to take their business elsewhere. With such powerful corporations fighting against government regulation of the Internet, is this ruling the beginning of the end for advocates of net neutrality? Perhaps not. The Open Internet Coalition âÄî which boasts members like Google, eBay and Amazon âÄî yesterday began appealing to the FCC to establish new regulatory inroads to Web authority. Fortunately, content providers like Google, which owns the streaming video giant YouTube, have a vested interest in keeping Internet service fast and unrestricted. With heavyweights like these in their corner, consumer advocates can be sure the last volleys have not been fired in the fight for a fair Internet.