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Jun 15, 2016

Court Decides All Bits Are Equal: Bits | The Business of Technology - June 15, 2016.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


The New York Times


The New York Times

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Daily Report
Court Decides All Bits Are Equal | Twenty years ago broadband might have been confused with a style of cummerbund. Now, a federal court has ruled, it is an essential part of American life.
But of what kind?
As Cecilia Kang writes, the appeals court for the District of Columbia decided by a vote of two to one that companies providing consumers with internet service, like AT&T or Comcast, cannot discriminate among the bits they ship.
That means Netflix, Google and your neighbor’s gardening blog all get treated the same, in terms of how fast they make it to a customer’s device. And the company sending high-definition films, which use a lot of bits, can’t be charged more or discriminated against by the service providers.
That “all bits are treated equal” approach is why this dispute, which became a legal case after the Federal Communications Commission issued rules in 2015, is usually termed one of “net neutrality.”
It is clear that the Netflixes of the world, and probably most consumers, like this decision, since it means there aren’t impediments on what can be shipped and seen.
Equally clear is that the service providers are not happy, since this means they can’t control their biggest users, whose increasingly heavy usage can force them to make expensive upgrades.
Count on an appeal, and most likely a final decision by the Supreme Court, because the concept of net neutrality touches on key philosophical and pragmatic aspects of modern life.
Is fast internet service now essential, since we need it to get a job or find out when the movie is on? Is broadband so essential that companies providing it must be regulated by the F.C.C. in how they treat customers?
What sort of essential commodity is the delivery of bits — is it like electricity, which is often priced against periods of peak usage? Is it like water, which must be provided at all times, but has different costs around the country based on difficulty of delivery? Is it something new?
On the other side, shouldn’t a company developing a new product have to consider how many bits it will be using, or other constraints it is putting on a system counted on by millions of people? When companies build a network for one purpose, and the network is overwhelmed by a new digital product that uses more bandwidth, should the old pricing rules apply?
The last is not an idle question. Just as high-definition video challenges a network used to, say, text-based email, the online gaming and virtual reality systems planned by the likes of Microsoft and Facebook will likely tax most existing service providers’ systems.
— Quentin Hardy
 
Court Backs Rules Treating Internet as Utility, Not Luxury
By CECILIA KANG
An appeals court panel affirmed the Federal Communications Commission’s rules about net neutrality, clearing the way for stricter oversight of broadband providers.

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