The Federal Communication Commission kept their promise: they just killed net neutrality. While mainstream media is still harping on the whole Russia-Trump thing, they are ignoring one of the biggest repeals of President Obama’s internet policies.
What does this repeal mean?
It means that internet providers will be able to block and throttle traffic at their choosing. They can offer “fast lanes” that will allow sites (that pay for it) to have prioritized access to consumers, while others may have slower access or even no access. It, also, strips away the Title II common carrier order, which was the back bone for net neutrality.
“The internet wasn’t broken in 2015. We were not living in some digital dystopia,” commission chairman Ajit Pai said today. “The main problem consumers have with the internet is not and has never been that their internet provider is blocking access to content. It’s been that they don’t have access at all.”
You may not realize it, but you are seeing examples of “fast lanes” via zero ratings. Zero ratings are services that you can use on your mobile device that do not count against your data cap. Meaning, if Hulu pays to be a zero rating, but Netflix decides it does not want to – you would be more incline to watch Hulu because its unlimited.
It was not a unanimous vote. It was a 3 to 2 judgement. One of the two Democrats on the commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, called today’s vote a “rash decision” that puts the FCC “on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public.” This vote, Rosenworcel says, gives internet providers the “green light to go ahead” and “discriminate and manipulate your internet traffic,” something she says they have a business incentive to do.
“This is not good,” Rosenworcel says. “Not good for consumers. Not good for businesses. Not good for anyone who connects and creates online.”
What happens now?
Three states have announced that they are taking steps to block Thursday’s decision. California state senator Scott Wiener said shortly after the vote that he’ll seek legislation requiring net neutrality in the state. The Democrat from San Francisco said in a post on Medium he plans formally introduce a bill early next year.
“California can regulate business practices to require net neutrality, condition state contracts on adhering to net neutrality, and require net neutrality as part of cable franchise agreements, as a condition to using the public right-of-way for internet infrastructure, and in broadband packages,” he said.
Meanwhile, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Thursday he’s suing over the net neutrality repeal, citing the federal government violated the Administrative Procedure Act.
“Allowing internet service providers to discriminate based on content undermines a free and open internet. Today’s action will seriously harm consumers, innovation and small businesses,” he said.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said his office plans to file a suite arguing the FCC gave telecom companies an early Christmas present by giving internet service providers yet another way to put corporate profits over consumers.
California may have issues trying to circumvent the FCC. The Republican led committee had reclassified broadband as an “interstate information service.” Also, they knew states would try and institute their own net neutrality, so the Republicans came prepared.
“The order makes plain that broadband will be subject to a uniform, national framework that promotes investment and innovation,” Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said in his statement before the FCC’s vote. “Broadband service is not confined to state boundaries and should not be constrained by a patchwork of state and local regulations.”
“Although the order does acknowledge an extremely limited state role in enforcing their traditional police powers, state actions that go beyond this realm will be subject to scrutiny and challenge,” he said. “The order makes clear that any requirements akin to common carrier regulation are barred.”
Will Things Change Tomorrow?
The short answer is no. We had mentioned before that the internet providers will most likely hang back a bit. They may hang their odds on potential lawsuits that could block the repeal. Not only that, some members of Congress could come up with their own net neutrality rules, which is a Democratic issue. With the slim majority the Republicans hold in the Senate, they could deliver the Trump Administration a decent defeat.
The repeal of net neutrality may not seem like a huge deal now. Pai is correct when he claims the “internet wasn’t broken” way back in 2015. However, you could see the inroads internet providers were using to throttle consumers and block apps from being used on various services. With the introduction of zero rating with net neutrality, internet providers were testing the limits to which they can get around it. Now, there is nothing to stop them.