On Monday, June 11, 2018, net neutrality was repealed. What are the possible implications we may face due to its demise? First, let’s look at what net neutrality is and why it was put into place to begin with.
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should enable equal access to all content and applications on the Internet, regardless of the source. Blocking or favoring particular websites was not allowed. Enacted in 2015 under the Obama administration, the purpose was to prohibit Internet providers from giving preferential treatment to certain websites or charging extra fees for access to certain content.
Under these regulations, broadband service was viewed as a utility and authority was switched to fall under the realm of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). The rules basically stated these three practices:
- Internet service providers could not discriminate against any lawful content by blocking websites or apps.
- Service providers could not slow data transmission due to the nature of the content.
- Service providers could not charge premiums to consumers in order to provide faster, better service than those who do not pay.
So now it is feared that Internet providers have entered the wild west of Internet controls, possibly by bundling different types of packages. Maybe you’ll subscribe to a social media package in order to use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other popular sites. Or what about a pay-to-play package? You would purchase a premium package that will have you zooming along the Internet, prioritizing specific sites.
Some broadband providers have argued that, under the rule of the FCC and net neutrality, they have been restrained from experimenting with new business models and investing in new technology. The FCC had too much control over their business and severely limited their ability to expand.
Proponents of the repeal state this action restores the FTC’s (Federal Trade Commission) authority over Internet providers. But although the FTC oversees consumer protection and competition, it lacks the rule making authority of the FCC.
It is doubtful that we will see an immediate shift in our Internet experiences. However, it could change significantly over time. It is hoped that the service providers will expand their services, perhaps allowing more coverage in rural areas as well as higher-speed service throughout the country.
A major worry is that larger companies such as AT&T, Verizon and others will acquire more online content and then give that service more priority on their networks.
Proponents of net neutrality are still trying to keep it alive. There are several acts in Congress needing attention and lawsuits against the FCC to keep the regulation active. Some states are taking it upon themselves to enact laws that will force net neutrality. Many companies have pledged that they will not block or throttle sites.