As the Federal Communications Commission decision regarding re-classifying the Internet looms, with the agency decision scheduled for Feb. 26, more than a few interested parties are likely busy prepping for potential legal battles.
The debate over what's called "net neutrality" has been a headline grabber for the past several years, with IT industry and telecom lobbyists, lawmakers and public consumer advocacy groups all wrangling to get the federal agency to make the "right" decision on who controls the Internet and what Internet service providers (ISPs) can and can't do when it comes to service offerings.
The big debate is on whether the FCC should, and has the authority to, reclassify the Internet as a public utility and what that means for providers, consumers and public and private business segments.
"Right now, the fear is that large Internet service providers will control access to the Internet by giving preferential treatment to those willing to pay," William R. Trueba, Jr., a founding partner at Espinosa Trueba, P.L., a law firm based in Miami, told Tech Times.
"In other words, without net neutrality, an Internet service provider could charge more for greater access to the Internet, creating a system in which those with means to pay for greater bandwidth could do so and those unwilling or without the means to pay would be relegated to slower, bottlenecked access to the Internet."
The big question is the eventual impact on the general user, as legal battles are expected no matter which way the FCC votes.
If, for example, the FCC supports reclassification, the decision would ignite legal response from telecoms, such as Verizon, which want the ability to create Internet "fast lanes," as explained by Trueba.
Other legal action may come from parties who believe the reclassifcation would stifle networking innovation tied to a "one-size-fits-all" approach. If the FCC doesn't vote for reclassification, the telecoms could join forces to lobby for a new decision, given the lucrative aspect of fast lane access.
The one group likely not getting ready to head to court anytime soon, note experts, is the typical consumer.
"Consumers aren't educated enough on the impact of this issue and have been mostly hands-off," Robert Siciliano, an online security expert at Anchorfree, told Tech Times. "If or when it affects them and they finally understand what it all means, it will be too late for them to act."