The future of net neutrality is a bit dimmer today. Following a landmark decision by a federal appeals court to strike down key parts of the FCC's Open Internet rules, internet service providers and telecommunications companies are scrambling to reassure customers that the internet — as they know it — will continue to work as advertised.
A barrage of companies including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and others have issued public statements that attempt to calm, and otherwise reassure customers the internet will continue to be "open," "vibrant," and that people will have "unfettered" access to all (legal) parts of it. Those promises could be reevaluated later on down the line, something that makes these statements a time capsule if, and when, any future policy changes are made.
... Today's decision will not change consumers' ability to access and use the Internet as they do now. The court's decision will allow more room for innovation, and consumers will have more choices to determine for themselves how they access and experience the Internet. Verizon has been and remains committed to the open Internet that provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where, and how they want. This will not change in light of the court's decision.
We look forward to working with the FCC and Congress to keep the Internet a hub of innovation without the need for unnecessary new regulations that seek to manage the explosive dynamism of the Internet.
Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs said that the company is still "committed to protect an open Internet," and that its service "won't change." He also added that the company's backed the FCC on the rules since 2004 :
AT&T has been committed to the open Internet since our endorsement of the FCC's statement of Internet freedoms in 2004. We worked constructively to help craft the FCC's net neutrality rule, and testified in support of it in the Congress. As the FCC assesses the impact of today's court decision, AT&T can assure all of our customers and stakeholders that our commitment to protect and maintain an open Internet will not change.
In a statement, Time Warner Cable said changes to the FCC rules or not, TWC still wants to give customers "unfettered access" to the internet:
Since pioneering the development of high-speed broadband service in the late 1990s, Time Warner Cable has been committed to providing its customers the best service possible, including unfettered access to the web content and services of their choice. This commitment, which long precedes the FCC rules, will not be affected by today's court decision.
Comcast executive vice president David Cohen noted that the company still has a multi-year deal in place to "abide by" the Open Internet rules, but that it will also be working with the FCC on future regulation:
Comcast has consistently supported the Commission's Open Internet Order as an appropriate balance of protection of consumer interests while not interfering with companies' network management and engineering decisions. As a result, we agreed in the NBCUniversal Transaction Order to abide by the Open Internet rules for seven years even if the rules were modified by the courts. We remain comfortable with that commitment because we have not - and will not - block our customers' ability to access lawful Internet content, applications, or services. Comcast's customers want an open and vibrant Internet, and we are absolutely committed to deliver that experience.
We are committed to work with Chairman Wheeler and the Commission to play a constructive role in finding an appropriate regulatory balance going forward that will continue to allow the Internet to flourish. Given the DC Circuit Court of Appeals holding that the FCC has jurisdiction in the broadband arena to preserve and facilitate the innovation that has driven the Internet, we are optimistic that the Commission can accomplish this result while avoiding inappropriate common carrier regulation.
The CTIA, a consortium of wireless companies, said it's still going over the details of the ruling. But CTIA chief executive Steve Largent noted that companies make decisions on service based on the market, and not legislation:
While we are still reviewing the text of the opinion, today's court decision does nothing to temper CTIA members' long-standing commitment to an open Internet and a vibrant wireless ecosystem because that's what wireless customers demand. In fact, the United States leads the world in mobile broadband specifically because investment and innovation have been driven by the needs of customers, not by regulations or court decisions. Policymakers should exercise caution before adding any additional regulation to this area, particularly given the fundamental technical and operational challenges facing mobile broadband providers and the robust competition to attract and retain customers.
Sprint declined to comment on the ruling, while T-Mobile deferred to the CTIA.