In 2013, Netflix became the first non-TV network to win an Emmy. Did this event signal the beginning of the end for the traditional cable television experience and the classic television networks? In an age of consumer cord-cutting, where streaming video accounts for fifty percent of peak Internet traffic and viewers want to choose which show they watch instead of which channel, the future of television is likely to come in the form of apps. Instead of a cable box, TVs would be plugged directly into an Internet connection. Instead of tuning into live channels, a TV’s main interface would be a wide selection of apps. Consumers could select the Netflix app and choose from its range of TV shows and movies, or select the NBC app to access any content from that network.
This exciting future comes at the height of the debate over “net neutrality.” The phrase “net neutrality” refers to the general principle of equal treatment for all Internet content, or, as one oft-cited definition phrases it: “all like Internet content must be treated alike and move at the same speed over the network.” However, a number of disparate ideas fall under the net neutrality umbrella, and these ideas have very different economic implications for consumers and providers. This Case Note argues that some of the principles of net neutrality should be enforced, while others are more likely to hinder innovation and economic growth. I begin by differentiating the separate concepts of net neutrality.
The debate over net neutrality has recently grown more fervent. In Verizon v. FCC, the D.C. Circuit cast the future of net neutrality into question by vacating the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) 2010 Open Internet Order on the grounds that the FCC had treated ISPs like common carriers. The FCC responded by adopting the 2015 Open Internet Order, which reclassified ISPs as common carriers and imposed a strict form of net neutrality. However, this Case Note argues that this strict version of net neutrality could result in the exact opposite of the outcome that the FCC seeks. Instead, a more nuanced version of net neutrality could better accomplish the Commission’s goals and provide better results for consumers.