Be afraid. Be very afraid. From “What you need to know about the court decision that just struck down net neutrality” at Gigaom:
The principle behind the phrase “net neutrality” is that internet service providers of all kinds should treat data flowing over the open internet equally, without giving preferential treatment to data from one provider or platform. On Tuesday, however, the Federal Communications Commission’s rules governing that kind of behavior were struck down by an appeals court in Washington, D.C. — as reported by Gigaom’s Jeff Roberts — in a case launched by Verizon.
This decision — if it remains unchallenged — raises the possibility that large internet service providers could charge certain companies extra for delivering their content to subscribers, and give preference to the content coming from those who are willing pay them a fee, or have cut some other kind of deal. In effect, the democratized nature of the internet would be replaced by a feudal system in which the ability to reach a consumer would be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
What does this mean? It means that, say, Time Warner Cable, in an attempt to get you to subscribe to HBO, could throttle traffic from Netflix. It means that Facebook, in an attempt to squash any potential rival startups, could pay ISPs an extra fee to give its customers unlimited bandwidth (as long as they’re surfing around Facebook, that is).
Sure, you could switch ISPs… if there are others going in your area. Chances are, there aren’t, because the ISPs long ago locked up monopolies in major markets.
Of course, this ruling only applies to the U.S. So, just as the rest of the world is already enjoying cheaper and faster broadband than what U.S. ISPs offer, the rest of the world will also continue to enjoy the fruits of Net innovation while new sites and services won’t be able to get a foothold in the U.S. Because whiny crybaby corporations can’t cope with some competition.
See also: “Welcome To The Net Neutrality Nightmare Scenario” at Buzzfeed.