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Landmark case for online freedom begins

The future of internet freedom in the United States is seeing its day in court as telecom giant Verizon and the Federal Communications Commission duke it out for the fate of net neutrality.

One of the biggest benefits that the internet affords its users is access to such a plethora of information and content. Which websites are and are not visited is up directly to the user, meaning that he or she is governed by his or her own discretion when it comes to the web. In this sense, this makes cyberspace one of the most free places for speech as regulations of what can be posted to the internet are rather minimal.

There are places on which almost any topic can be discussed, while a variety of social media outlets like Twitter, give users a voice in which they can chime in on nearly anything. Such platforms were instrumental in the organization of many of the protests that occurred during the Arab Spring and have enabled many to become citizen journalists, offering a perspective on events that others would not have.

What is net neutrality?
Much of this freedom is because of a policy that is known as net neutrality. This is the idea that an internet service provider is not allowed to show favoritism when monitoring internet traffic. According to Time Magazine, its principles are broken down into three basic fronts. First, an ISP must be transparent about the ways in which it regulates the flow of web content. Also such companies are not allowed to block content to certain websites such as Netflix, and finally, bandwidth cannot be limited for certain websites, effectively making them slower than others.

While it may not seem like such rules would come into conflict with how people use the internet, they actually have huge ramifications when the corporate interests of these ISPs are considered. Comcast, an ISP, also offers an video streaming service that would operate as a competing service service to other content providers like Netflix. Media Matters explains that the company offered preferred service to its own streaming service on Xbox 360 by exempting its own service from bandwidth caps, while other ones, like Netflix count against it. In these kinds of circumstances, the ISP ends up prioritizing certain content at the expense of equal access to a variety of companies.

The Verizon case
Legislation is in place that looks to prevent such action, but telecom giant Verizon believes that such legislation should be removed. Time explains there are a number of fronts on which the company is challenging the validity of the FCC legislation, known as the Open Internet Order.

Verizon argues that the FCC does not have the legal authority to regulate such laws because Congress did not grant them the authority to do so. To this the FCC responds that it has been granted these rights under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the Communications Act of 1934. Another argument that the corporation is making is that such laws are actually in violation of the company's own freedom of speech rights.

This argument stems out of the fact that because the company voices its own speech as web content as well as well, it can use its own discretion as to say what content will be featured and what will not, much in the same way a physical publication chooses what articles to publish.

The ramifications of this case are high. On one front, some feel as though this is a case of the government over stepping its bounds, while others feel that all content should be free and open to access. It raises an important question about the role that an ISP should play in the internet economy going forward.

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admin had written 358 articles for Party of We

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