Net neutrality has officially been repealed, but at what cost?
After a lengthy political battle, the Federal Communications Commision has officially repealed net neutrality regulations enacted during the Obama administration in 2015. These rules were originally put in place to prohibit internet service providers from charging additional fees on select content (among other things).
For example, it was argued that without net neutrality, ISPs could hypothetically charge consumers $5 per month to use websites like Facebook in addition to the amount paid for basic internet access as a whole. Other items addressed by net neutrality included:
- Blocking: ISPs cannot discriminate against any lawful content by blocking websites or apps.
- Throttling: ISPs cannot slow the transmission of data because of the nature of the content, as long as it was legal.
- Paid Prioritization: ISPs cannot create an internet fast lane for companies and consumers who paid premiums, and a slow land for those who do not.
Naturally, the repeal of these regulations sparked massive public outcry, with as many as 83% of voters feeling that net neutrality should be left intact. If so many voters favor net neutrality, why repeal it? One of the main factors behind net neutrality’s repeal is F.C.C. chairman Ajit Pai, who has always been vocal about his feelings against net neutrality laws. According to Pai, net neutrality regulations “impede innovation.”
Aside from Pai’s opposition, the F.C.C. itself is in favor of repeal as it claims net neutrality regulations place too many restrictions on providers, which prevents them from experimenting with new business models and investing in new tech. Internet service providers themselves also favor the repeal.
One could argue for nefarious reasons, although these ISPs claim they have no plans to put things like throttling and paid prioritization in place. If you support net neutrality, there may be good news depending on the state you live in. Following the vote to repeal net neutrality, states like New York, Montana, and Washington have put their own laws into place replacing and/or modifying the federal rules.
As of May, a total of 29 state legislatures have introduced bills to protect net neutrality. In the meantime, states that haven’t enacted new regulations are left vulnerable to the repeal. Whether ISPs will make good on their promise to “behave” remains to be seen. Either way, the F.C.C.’s repeal of net neutrality is a polarizing issue that will likely remain in active debate for years to come.