Today marks a moment long dreaded — the beginning of the end of net neutrality.

A DC appeals court struck down key provisions protecting neutrality, as RT reports:

In Tuesday’s ruling, the three-panel appeals court agreed with Verizon and said the FCC had classified broadband service providers in a manner that excludes ISPs from the anti-blocking and anti-discrimination requirements instilled through the Open Internet Order.

With the drafting of the Open Internet Order, the FCC imposed restrictions on broadband service providers akin to the rules in place for ‘common carriers,’ such as telephone and transportation companies that provide vital services to the public. Centuries-old law requires common carriers to not discriminate when it comes to critical to the public operations, and although the FCC has imposed these requirements on internet companies it has failed to classify them as such. Instead, the FCC classified such companies as ‘information-service providers.’

‘[E]ven though the Commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates,’ the court ruled. ‘Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such. Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order.’

PC World’s Brad Chacos wrote that this decision ‘holds tremendous portent for the future of the internet,’ and Gigaom’s Jeff John Roberts called the ruling a ‘game-changer.’

The 1%ers at Forbes are already crowing about their victory, as seen in this OpEd by Clyde Wayne Crews, Jr:

If unreasonable and abusive non-neutrality and misbehavior happen, and who knows, occasionally they may, competitive rather than political or bureaucratic responses create the foundation for the robust future communications networks needed. You don’t create a universal regulatory superstructure to deal with a rifle shot problem that’s itself rooted in FCC’s decades old regulatory legacy.

Bureaucracies like FCC benefit from locking in what happens to exist today, preventing that necessary competitive response. In turn they undermine the openness and free speech they claim to enshrine.

It’s a good thing that net neutrality, which is not neutral in any sense, be dead and buried. New business are emerging as infrastructure and firms increasingly overlap, invading each others’ turf. Compulsory ‘neutrality’ makes perpetual enemies out of enterprises that should both compete and cooperate to expand the wonders of ever faster broadband to more and more customers.

Trust the free market, citizens. Any corruption will be minor, scout’s honor.

But more realistically, Dan Gillmor of Guardian’s On Digital Being calls it a “victory for telecoms, blow for rest of us:”

Today’s US appeals court decision on ‘net neutrality’ is a major, and deeply worrisome, step in the wrong direction. The promise, and for several decades the reality, of the internet was decentralization: a network of networks where innovation would take place largely at the edges, not in the center. It was the antithesis of the centralized systems of the communications and media systems that prevailed in the 20th Century.

We are on the verge of losing the internet that held such promise, at least for the near and medium term. Today’s federal appeals court ruling in a suit by Verizon against the Federal Communications Commission’s already feeble network neutrality rules is only the latest evidence. The court ruling will embolden America’s rapacious telecom companies, which assert the right to decide what bits of information get to internet users’ computers in what order and at what speed, or even if they get to our computers at all.

This was entirely predictable. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Congress and several presidents have created a policy and regulatory regime almost designed to limit choice in the long run. The FCC’s 2010 ‘Open Internet Order,’ shot down by the court on Tuesday, was just one more bad move in a series of missteps. It purported to regulate the carriers in a way that the FCC had earlier ensured could not be done legally, because the commission had freed the carriers from any commitment to behave as the utilities they have become.

The FCC could fix that tomorrow, and thereby slow this rush toward a highly controlled internet. Given the clout of the telecom industry and its well-paid allies, not to mention the timidity, if not culpability, of the policy makers, that’s a long shot.

Thanks to Emily Kausalik for the Forbes tip.