On Jan. 4, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal the net neutrality protections put into place under the Obama administration.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was appointed by Donald Trump, referred to the repeal as preventing the government from micromanaging the internet.

According to the telecom industry the current regulations stifle innovation and investments.

In 2015, net neutrality rules were put into place to keep the internet fair and open and had an outpouring of online support. The rules prevent internet service providers from purposely speeding up or slowing down traffic to certain websites or apps and from giving their own content an advantage over rivals.

For example, Comcast cannot slow down Netflix to make its own streaming services more competitive. Furthermore, Comcast cannot push Netflix to pay more money for a faster connection.

According to Vimeo general counsel Michael Cheah, it allows “consumers to pick the winners and losers and not [have] the cable companies make those decisions for them.”

Both sides agree that the internet is becoming an integral part of everyday life. Change is regulation is a hot-button issue, such as the repeal of internet privacy protections in 2017. According to former FCC official Michelle Connolly, because everyone uses the internet, regulations are seen from a personal perspective.

The FCC has voted to remove the regulation that prevents internet providers from slowing down or blocking access to online content. It is also eliminating the rule that prevents them from prioritizing their own content. This means Comcast will be able to slow Netflix to prioritize its own streaming services.

However, internet service providers will be required to disclose these actions to the public and they will be evaluated to determine if the decisions are ant-competitive.

Also, the FCC will no longer be overseeing internet protections. This responsibility will shift to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC has promised to step in only if an internet service provider is deceiving the public, according to Chris Lewis, the vice president at Public Knowledge, which is a nonprofit organization focused on open internet.

Several states are stepping up to enact their own legislation to protect net neutrality. However, according to the Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, states cannot adopt their own laws that do not support the repeal. In this instance, federal law stands and individual states must follow. In the past, courts have upheld the rules made by the FCC when states tried to fight against their decision.

In a statement from FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, he wrote,

The future of the internet is the future of everything. That is because there is nothing in our commercial, social, and civic lives that has been untouched by its influence or unmoved by its power. And here in the United States our internet economy is the envy of the world. This is because it rests on a foundation of openness.

By Jeanette Smith


FCC: Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order
CNN: Net neutrality: States propose bills to preserve protections

Image Courtesy of Nancy Regan’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License