The Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality rules officially went into effect Monday (June 11).
The net neutrality rules enacted by the President Barack Obama administration in 2015, prohibited internet providers from charging more for certain content such as those that require more bandwidth or from giving preferential treatment to certain websites. The rules basically required internet service providers to offer equal access to all web content.
Despite the outcry from the public imploring the F.C.C to leave net neutrality rules in place, the commission went ahead and voted to repeal the rules in December.
With net neutrality officially repealed, consumers and advocates are worried that broadband providers could begin selling the internet in bundles like cable television packages have begun doing; selling sports, MTV/VH1/BET etc bundles. For instance, access to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites could require paying for a premium social media package. Memes with made up monetary figures circled around social media prior to the F.C.C’s vote and was a major part of the uproar from the public. Another concern is that now that paid prioritization is no longer prohibited, the transmission of data could be slowed for those who do not pay a premium while a fast lane could be occupied by big internet and media companies, as well as affluent households. Small business owners are also worried about an unfair playing field with their websites loading more slowly compared to big companies with a bigger budget. The internet has made it much easier for people to go into business for themselves with a fairly small budget but this could change things, as well as for freelancers and those who work remotely; they could face a higher cost of doing their jobs from home.
Citizens, public interests groups, state attorneys, and Democratic lawmakers pushed to overturn the decision, arguing that a repeal would allow service providers to censor content online or charge additional fees. Several states have taken steps to overrule the F.C.C’s repeal on a local level. In March, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington signed a law that effectively replaced the federal rules. The Governors of Montana and New York used executive orders to force net neutrality. Also, as of late May, 29 state legislatures introduced bills meant to ensure net neutrality, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some of these measures, however, have failed, some are still pending, and some states have not taken any action at all.
The F.C.C, however, has made arguments for repealing the rules. They voted for the repeal because the rules restrained broadband providers like Verizon and Comcast from experimenting with new business models and investing in new technology. The chairman, Ajit Pai, has long argued that the rules were just put into effect in 2015 and service providers had not engaged in any of the feared practices before net neutrality was put into place.
Several internet providers have made public pledges that they will not block sites and slow down the transmission of data once the rules were repealed. They argued that Title II gave the F.C.C. too much power over their business and the regulations made it hard to expand their networks.
Democratic lawmakers are still fighting to reinstate net neutrality. Barbara Underwood, New York’s attorney general, noted that lawsuits opposing the repeal were still pending.