Net Neutrality

Last week, a U.S. Appeals Court decided that the FCC cannot mandate that Internet service providers don’t  discriminate what type of content is made available through their networks. The so called “net neutrality” principle requires that all content be treated equal by ISPs such as Comcast. For example, Comcast also offers phone service, so it may have an incentive to slow down Internet phone applications such as Skype. Net neutrality barred them from engaging in these preactices. All info should be equal once it becomes zeros and ones, according to proponents of net neutrality. But the court disagreed.

What put this court case in motion? You got it, illegal downloading:

Comcast took on the FCC after the agency said the cable giant violated open-Internet guidelines in 2007 by throttling BitTorrent, a popular online peer-to-peer file-sharing service that not coincidently allows users to download pirated movies and television shows.

Some people in class argued that illegal downloading is here to stay, but this might not be the case. If ISPs will be getting involved in curbing certain Internet activities, or cut off Internet services to users uploading and downloading copyrighted material, as is currently the case in France, downloading copyrighted material might become harder.

I don’t doubt for a second that the young, educated,  smart and savvy will find ways to get content for free paid for by the rest of us, so eliminating copyright infringement might indeed be impossible. But making it hard, cumbersome and risky so that more people won’t find it worth their while might not be an impossible goal for copyright holders. A lot will depend on the role ISPs will take.

The success of the French experiment is uncertain, as many media reported that piracy is actually up in France, based on one preliminary study.


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