In the debate over net neutrality, one key question has not been sufficiently answered.
What, exactly, was going wrong with the rules that were in effect? Who, exactly, was being prevented from doing anything when net neutrality was the law of the land?
We still don't know the answer to the latter, and we won't for some time. Net neutrality cases will clog federal and district courts for years. The matter may end up in the hands of the Supreme Court.
Legal minds around the country have made their position clear. The ink was barely dry on the ruling reversing net neutrality when attorneys general around the country announced their plans to contest the ruling. Among those battling are attorneys general in New York, Washington, California, Kentucky, and Illinois' Lisa Madigan.
Too often, discussions about computers and the internet are left to the few who understand the complexity of the issue, and the rest of us, overwhelmed with difficulty grasping the concepts, are left to go along with whatever decisions are made.
There's scant evidence of everyday internet users seeing any benefits from the elimination of net neutrality.
The law of network neutrality says all users have equal access to content providers. Comcast, or AT&T, or Sprint, or any other broadband network supplier cannot block content, slow speeds to regulate bandwidth use, or allow prioritized access for a fee.
It's difficult to set aside suspicions that the latter regulation is the one that specifically interests big business.
The internet plays a wider, and growing role in the vitality of our lives. Our ability to communicate and learn has been enhanced exponentially, and a key part of that enhancement has come from the utilization of higher speeds and extended bandwidth use.
The discussion could solve itself more quickly than anyone expects. Public Knowledge’s Harold Feld, a pro-neutrality lawyer, said, “The history of net neutrality is that whenever you get rid of the rules, one of the carriers does something stupid that makes people very upset.”
We've seen repeated outrage as internet providers have been discovered giving positive or negative attention to specific content providers.
This is an issue millions of Americans are already involved with, as evidenced by the piles of messages received by the FCC during the public comment period on the issue. It's difficult to see the ruling standing if even a fraction of what doomsayers predict comes to pass.
Perhaps those predicting an internet apocalypse are right. Perhaps those suggesting the regulation change will result in untold innovations and improvements are correct.
The first question that should be asked, again, is simple: What was wrong with net neutrality last week that has been made suddenly better for consumers today? Unless and until there's a satisfactory answer to that question, it's an unsatisfactory ruling.