Once upon a time, I spent a few years working for Verizon. It was an amazing and eye-opening professional experience for me, and although I ultimately came back to the world of small business development I learned quite a bit during my time working for one of the world’s largest companies.

While I was there, Verizon and their large telecommunications brethren managed to convince the US government—specifically the FCC—to deregulate data. At the time, this was presented as a matter of fairness; telcos were (and still are) obligated to allow “alternative carriers” to provide switched voice service over the lines that they built under government protection, but because advanced systems like Verizon’s all-fiber optic FIOS service weren’t built with government help the Verizons of the world argued successfully that the rules applying to the old copper lines shouldn’t apply to new lines. Fair enough.

Last September, the FCC made rules controlling “Net Neutrality”. On the surface, these rules are designed to stop Verizon and the other owners of physical lines over which Internet traffic moves from providing preferential treatment to the traffic they deem important. Again, fair; I suspect that like me you don’t want your Internet Service Provider slowing down things they think aren’t important and speeding up the things that they think are. There are censorship issues in that, and also issues surrounding your favorite sites being slowed by your connection provider if they have a competing service or do business with someone who does.

Well. OOPS! The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has decided that the FCC had no right to issue Net Neutrality rules because the Internet lines were deregulated as I explained above.

Don’t you love business change? And government bureaucrats? And lawyers? Now, the FCC has decided that they can get their way by re-regulating the lines. I don’t know it they’ll be able to pull that off, but either way, my head hurts just thinking about the years of legal wrangling ahead, the money that will be spent, and the outcome that will ultimately do . . . nothing.

Make your business decisions with an eye to the future. Hedge your bets when necessary. And if you have a preference for which way this issue should be decided, make some noise.

Nice choices: greater government regulation, or someone else controlling how you use the Internet. Stay tuned. For years.

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