The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to dismantle rules regulating the businesses that connect consumers to the internet, granting broadband companies the power to potentially reshape Americans’ online experiences.
Cecilia Kang of The New York Times had the story:
The agency scrapped the so-called net neutrality regulations that prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content. The federal government will also no longer regulate high-speed internet delivery as if it were a utility, like phone service.
The action reversed the agency’s 2015 decision, during the Obama administration, to have stronger oversight over broadband providers as Americans have migrated to the internet for most communications. It reflected the view of the Trump administration and the new F.C.C. chairman that unregulated business will eventually yield innovation and help the economy.
It will take weeks for the repeal to go into effect, so consumers will not see any of the potential changes right away. But the political and legal fight started immediately. Numerous Democrats on Capitol Hill called for a bill that would reestablish the rules, and several Democratic state attorneys general, including Eric T. Schneiderman of New York, said they would file a suit to stop the change.
Jackie Wattles of CNNMoney.com reported that the move was applauded by internet service providers:
The vote to roll back net neutrality rules on Thursday was slammed by tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Netflix. But the move was applauded by internet service providers.
The Republican-led Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to repeal regulations aimed at protecting net neutrality — rules that ensure internet providers can’t deliberately speed up or slow down traffic from specific websites or apps. Nor can they put their own content at an advantage over rivals. The rules were first put in place under President Obama in 2015.
Nothing is set in stone yet. The repeal isn’t set to take effect until next year. The issue may ultimately end up being decided in court, and Congress may step in with a legislative solution.
A recent poll by the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy found net neutrality rules have broad support among consumers — 83% to be exact.
Jacob Kastrenakes of The Verge reported that advocates of repeal argued that the rules weren’t needed in the first place:
Opponents of net neutrality argue that the rules were never needed in the first place, because the internet has been doing just fine. “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.”
While that may broadly be true, it’s false to say that all of the harms these rules were preventing are imagined: even with the rules in place, we saw companies block their customers from accessing competing apps, and we saw companies implement policies that clearly advantage some internet services over others. Without any rules in place, they’ll have free rein to do that to an even greater extent.
Supporters of net neutrality have long argued that, without these rules, internet providers will be able to control traffic in all kinds of anti-competitive ways. Many internet providers now own content companies (see Comcast and NBCUniversal), and they may seek to advantage their own content in order to get more eyes on it, ultimately making it more valuable.