It’s official. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s repeal of net neutrality rules, which had required internet service providers to offer equal access to all web content, took effect on Monday.
The rules which were enacted during the President Barack Obama era in 2015, prohibited internet providers from charging more for certain content or from giving preferential treatment to certain websites.
“Now, on June 11, these unnecessary and harmful internet regulations will be repealed and the bipartisan, light-touch approach that served the online world well for nearly 20 years will be restored,” Pai said in a statement last month.
In December 2017, the FCC voted to repeal the rules in December, triggering a public outcry, legal challenges from state attorneys general and public interest groups, and a push by Democratic lawmakers to overturn the decision. The opponents argued that the repeal would open the door for service providers to censor content online or charge additional fees for better service — something that could hurt small companies — and several states have taken steps to impose the rules on a local level.
But even those who oppose the repeal say very little is likely to change right away given pending litigation and possible legislation to settle the issue.
“Nothing will change the next day,” says Kevin Werbach, an associate professor of legal studies at Wharton and former FCC adviser. “Companies are not going to take any major action to change their policies until it’s resolved.”
These rules were repealed
The original rules laid out a regulatory plan that addressed a rapidly changing internet. Under those regulations, broadband service was considered a utility under Title II of the Communications Act, giving the F.C.C. broad power over internet providers. The rules prohibited these practices:
BLOCKING Internet service providers could not discriminate against any lawful content by blocking websites or apps.
THROTTLING Service providers could not slow the transmission of data because of the nature of the content, as long as it was legal.
PAID PRIORITIZATION Service providers could not create an internet fast lane for companies and consumers who paid premiums, and a slow lane for those who didn’t.
What’s everybody worried about?
Many consumer advocates argued that once the rules were scrapped, broadband providers would begin selling the internet in bundles, not unlike cable television packages. Want access to Facebook and Twitter? Under a bundling system, getting on those sites could require paying for a premium social media package.
Another major concern is that consumers could suffer from pay-to-play deals. Without rules prohibiting paid prioritization, a fast lane could be occupied by big internet and media companies, as well as affluent households, while everyone else would be left in the slow lane.
Some small-business owners are worried, too, that industry giants could pay to get an edge and leave them on an unfair playing field.