As of June 11, 2018, there are no more legal protections against content discrimination on the internet. Net neutrality is dead, as far as the FCC is concerned.
The fate of the policy was sealed in December 2017. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order passed along party lines in a 3-2 vote. The order goes into effect on June 11, 2018. It rolls back net neutrality protections put in place by Tom Wheeler, the former chairman of the FCC.
The protections promised unrestricted access to online content without the burden of regulations. The new ruling creates a path for large internet service providers to do whatever they want. This includes throttling, paid prioritization, and slowing the traffic that moves across the internet.
It may take a while to see the practical effects of the new rules, or lack of rules, but this is the “first step in a long, slow process that will reshape the internet in very ugly ways,” according to The Verge.
Net neutrality, at its core, meant that all online traffic was created equally. Wheeler’s 2015 Open Internet Order put rules in place that prevented internet companies from throttling or blocking traffic or offering paid fast lanes. Internet service providers were classified as Title II carriers under the Telecommunications Act of 1934 and 1996. As long as the policy was in place, the internet was treated as a public utility.
Pai’s policy rescinds Wheeler’s order with the intent to restore a “successful, light-touch regulatory framework.” The Restoring Internet Freedom Order reclassified the internet as a Title I service. The new order means that regulators cannot legally block paid prioritization, throttling, or any other violations of net neutrality.
For years, internet service providers have been making deals with video and streaming services, such as Netflix, which allows for more reliable data delivery. This is known as paid peering. AT&T customers can watch cable programming on their phones without it counting toward their monthly data cap, as long as the cable service is also through AT&T. This is called zero-rating.
With paid prioritization, carriers can boost a specific company or product to make more money through advertisements. Throttling could degrade service for non-partnered companies. This would make it hard for smaller streaming services to be involved in the competitive market. Over time, internet bills could look more like cable bills.
Hopefully, the competition between carriers will prevent this from happening. However, in many parts of the country there is no competition between providers, which leaves providers free to restrict access and charge more for services.
Internet service providers will be able to collect and share more information to serve advertisements tailored to individual web and purchase histories.
In April 2017, Donald Trump signed a resolution that allows providers to share customer’s web and search histories. That resolution made it so providers do not have to ask for permission before sharing, viewing, or using that information. This is a sure-fire move to collect more money from ads.
Twenty-nine states have produced over 65 bills since Pai’s rules were established in December. Governors in six states have signed executive orders banning any internet service providers from operating if they refuse to abide by Wheeler’s rules from 2015.
However, the December order issued by the FCC included a clause that prohibited states from enacting their own net neutrality. Experts do not believe that internet service providers will fight state rules for fear of a lawsuit.
There is a motion in Congress, currently, that would force the Republican majority in the House of Representatives to bring up a vote to rescind the Pai order and reinstate the 2015 regulations. The motion has already passed in the Senate and the House needs less than 50 representatives to sign it and force the vote to pass the bill.
By Jeanette Smith
The Verge: Net neutrality is dead — what now?
Featured Image Courtesy of Mike MacKenzie’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License