by Alexander Hurst –
Few things are as ingrained in Americans’ daily lives as the Internet. A one-stop source for information, communication, and entertainment, the Internet has, for many, supplanted the old media that came before it such as books, telephones, fax machines, and television. Yet the Internet is an incredibly nebulous thing, a network of various private networks the regulation of which is currently even more amorphous. A recent decision of the D.C. Circuit, which has national effect, has rendered the traditional model of the Internet subject to upheaval. The fundamental principle in question, so-called “net neutrality,” stands for the idea that Internet providers must treat all traffic equally. Blocking and preferential treatment of certain Internet content providers (websites) was disallowed under the now-vacated regulatory regime of the F.C.C.’s Open Internet Order. The crucial concern addressed by this Article is how Internet providers are now essentially free to force various services and websites like Netflix and even Google to pay a fee if they want to be made available for subscribers of the Internet provider’s service, a cost which is likely to be passed on to consumers.