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June 14, 2016

Good News: ISPs Won't Be Able To Stick Porn in the Slow Lane

CYBERSPACE—Remember when it used to cost a shitload of moolah to place a phone call from, say, New York to San Francisco? Of course you don't; you're too young. But back in the Olde Days, it did—until the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) started looking at the usurious rates the phone company, AT&T, was charging for their services, which led to the current proliferation of phone service providers, at which point cross-country communication got a lot cheaper. The FCC was able to do this in part because telephone companies are considered to be "public utilities," meaning "an organization that maintains the infrastructure for a public service." The same is true of water and electric companies and some other community service providers—so why not internet service providers (ISPs) as well? The internet is at least as crucial to our economic infrastructure as the telephone—possibly even more so. So it's not surprising that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit today issued a ruling upholding the FCC's "net neutrality" regulations, which required that ISPs treat all data flowing over their lines the same, and allowing the FCC to treat ISPs as "telecommunications services" which are subject to the same "common carrier" regulations as phone companies under Title II of the federal Communications Act. "This means your broadband provider, which controls your access to the Internet, can't block or slow down the services or applications you use over the web," explained CNet.com's Marguerite Reardon. "It also means your Internet provider can't create so-called fast lanes that force companies like Netflix to pay an additional fee to deliver their content to customers faster." And rest assured, that's exactly what the ISPs would like to do: Sock companies that would like to see their pages loading faster with higher fees, while at the same time slowing down sites that can't or won't pay the freight. Of course, that wasn't what the ISPs argued in their lawsuit against the regs. No; they claimed that the FCC's claim that ISPs are "public utilities" was just a ploy to allow it to charge higher rates and, in the process, discourage companies from building new networks or upgrading the old ones—charges the FCC vehemently denied. "Today's ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web," said FCC chair Tom Wheeler in a statement to the media. "After a decade of debate and legal battles, today's ruling affirms the Commission's ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections—both on fixed and mobile networks—that will ensure the internet remains open, now and in the future." And speaking of internet protections, the FCC already has some privacy rules ready to roll out, which would limit the ability of large companies to collect personal data from their customers and sell it to private companies. But what net neutrality will do for the adult industry is to put streaming adult video on the same plane, speed-wise, as Netflix or other multibillion-dollar companies that could afford to pay for increased speed for their sites. Of course, the ISPs won't be accepting this ruling without a fight. "We have always expected this issue to be decided by the Supreme Court, and we look forward to participating in that appeal," said David McAtee, AT&T senior executive VP and general counsel. But unless and until the Supreme Court issues a stay, the new rules went into effect on Sunday, not only blocking internet "fast lanes" but also allowing the FCC to regulate provider/user contracts to see if they harm the "open internet" concept, and forcing ISPs to be more transparent in their networking practices. "Today’s decision in the D.C. Circuit ensures that the Internet will remain the most powerful engine the world has ever known for free speech, education, and economic growth," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). "The FCC’s rules protect the Internet as an open platform, prohibiting would-be gatekeepers from attempting to control the flow of content for their own economic gain." "Today’s ruling of the Court affirms what millions of Americans already knew: that net neutrality rules grounded in Title II gave the FCC the strongest legal authority to adopt strong and meaningful rules against blocking, throttling, and discrimination of online content by both wired and wireless broadband providers," added Rep. Anna Esho (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee. One thing is for sure: Providers of adult internet services can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that they won't be forced to pay higher rates so their content will load in a reasonable time, nor can ISPs slow down the loading simply because the company doesn't like porn.

 
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