INTERNET NEUTRALITY was dealt a blow today in the United States when an appeals court ruled that traffic shaping is not illegal under US law.
American telecoms carrier Verizon pursued a successful appeal claiming that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the American government body broadly equivalent to Ofcom in the UK, did not have the authority to forbid prioritisation of different types of internet traffic.
The Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in Washington, DC ruled that the internet constitutes an "information service" rather than a "telecommunications service" and therefore the FCC could not enforce the rules it has in place to govern the practices of telecoms companies with respect to internet services.
The Obama administration has been a vocal supporter of the concept of equal internet access that is called "net neutrality", and US President Obama pledged to protect it in his election campaigns.
More embarrassingly, the FCC produced a document called the Open Internet Order of 2010, which contained regulations designed to avoid controversy between those for and against net neutrality.
If the appellate court's decision is upheld, it could pave the way for internet service providers (ISPs) offering priority internet traffic at a premium. With the major streaming services Netflix and Amazon Prime both pledging 4K programming in the coming year, one example might be offers by large telecoms carriers and ISPs to provide preferential handling for those high bandwidth services at higher prices.
The FCC has yet to announce its next move, but said that it has not ruled out an appeal. µ