Sounds boring and likely won’t mean any change in the short term.
But what could it mean?
The worst case scenario would be a huge content creator joining forces with a huge infrastructure provider and the new entity exerting controls over who sees what and when and what they pay.
You might call it an ‘unequal internet’ where some benefit from blazing fast access and others crawl along. Where more people ‘can’t afford’ to get online and where certain content is prioritised over others. Where there’s a stream and a tariff for gamers and another for box set viewers and maybe even another for those with particular political views.
In the late 1980s content provider World Wrestling Federation told cable companies they wouldn’t be able to show its ‘Royal Rumble’ pay per view if they chose to show its rival WCW’s event ‘Starrcade’. In theory, the end of net neutrality would allow a broadband provider to do similar, for example, not to allow its customer’s access to Netflix because they were working in co-operation with Disney.
At the moment, everyone involved insists they’d never go down this road. And they’d be foolish to because the public wouldn’t like it and it would cost these companies. But what happened yesterday means that there’s no law preventing them doing so.
And it speaks volumes about a government’s attitude towards the internet.
What is it? A basic right? A utility? Or a commodity?
Now we know.