There could be big changes coming to the Internet, making it much harder to browse your favorite websites. A federal court’s ruling struck down what’s known as net neutrality.

Critics of the ruling argue it paves the way for ISPs to stop playing fair and start playing favorites. The Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out an FCC order meant to keep service providers from blocking or slowing web traffic as they pleased.

“That is a big deal,” said Anupam Chander, a UC Davis professor specializing in cyber law. “That is absolutely a big deal and this has important implications.”

Take YouTube and Netflix. Just those two websites account for half of all Internet download traffic. One of the big ISPs like Comcast, AT&T or Verizon could theoretically treat Netflix or YouTube as competitors to their own video services.

“If you are Comcast or Verizon and you don’t want people watching Google’s or Netflix’s video, you might say, we’re going to charge them more in order to carry their traffic,” said.

That charge could be passed down to you, the user. The professor says there’s another alarming possibility: ISPs could intentionally limit bandwidth and discriminate against websites they don’t like. Or, they could do the opposite, speeding up traffic to the sites they want you to visit.

“We need to be worried about companies preferring their own services to competing services,” said Chander.

No changes are expected to happen right away. The major ISPs have pledged to play fair, for now.


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