FCC Votes to Repeal Net Neutrality, What That Means for You

WASHINGTON — The fight for the future of the internet just came to a head.

The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to repeal net neutrality protections. The repeal passed along a party-line vote.

Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman, has framed the repeal as getting the government to “stop micromanaging the internet.”

The move is supported by the telecom industry, which claims existing regulations threaten to hamper broadband investments and innovation.

Technology companies and consumer advocacy groups have loudly protested the repeal effort for months, both online and offline, arguing it could spell the end of the internet as we know it.

Here’s what it all means and what’s really at stake.

WHAT EXACTLY IS NET NEUTRALITY?

The net neutrality rules were approved by the FCC in 2015 amid an outpouring of online support. The intention was to keep the internet open and fair.

Under the rules, internet service providers are required to treat all online content the same. They can’t deliberately speed up or slow down traffic from specific websites or apps, nor can they put their own content at an advantage over rivals.

To take a classic example, this means Comcast can’t just choose to slow down a service like Netflix to make its own streaming video service more competitive, nor can it try to squeeze Netflix to pay more money to be part of a so-called internet fast lane.

As Michael Cheah, general counsel at video site Vimeo, previously told CNNMoney: the point of the rules is “allowing consumers to pick the winners and losers and not [having] the cable companies make those decisions for them.”

WHY IS NET NEUTRALITY SUCH A BIG DEAL?

If there’s one thing that both sides can agree on, it’s that the internet is increasingly central to our lives. Any change to how it’s regulated is a hot button issue. (Remember the uproar over repealing internet privacy protections earlier this year?)

“Everyone uses the internet and everyone uses these tech platforms,” Michelle Connolly, a former FCC official who supports Pai, previously told CNNMoney. “So issues that are coming up right now, people are seeing from a very personal perspective.”

SO HOW WILL INTERNET PROVIDERS BE REGULATED IF NET NEUTRALITY IS REPEALED?

The FCC is doing away with rules barring internet providers from blocking or slowing down access to online content. The FCC would also eliminate a rule barring providers from prioritizing their own content.

In the absence of a firm ban on these actions, providers will be required to publicly disclose any instance of blocking, throttling or paid prioritization. It will then be evaluated based on whether or not the activity is anti-competitive.

Related: Trump administration sends mixed messages on big media

As part of this shift, oversight of internet protections will shift from the FCC to the Federal Trade Commission.

Maureen K. Ohlhausen, the acting head of the FTC, said in a statement Monday that the agency is “committed to ensuring that Internet service providers live up to the promises they make to consumers.”

But consumer advocacy groups are less than optimistic.

“Not only is the FCC eliminating basic net neutrality rules, but it’s joining forces with the FTC to say it will only act when a broadband provider is deceiving the public,” Chris Lewis, VP at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit that focuses on the open internet, said in a statement this week. “This gives free reign to broadband providers to block or throttle your broadband service as long as they inform you of it.”

AND HOW WILL REPEALING NET NEUTRALITY AFFECT ME?

First, it’s important to say what won’t happen: Billion-dollar services like Netflix are not going to disappear overnight without net neutrality. They have large enough audiences and bank accounts to survive in a changing regulatory landscape.

Instead, net neutrality advocates worry how repeal will impact the next Netflix. Upstart companies may struggle to strike deals with providers and pay up to have their content delivered faster. That could fundamentally alter the future internet landscape.

The repeal could change how customers are billed for services, both for good and bad. T-Mobile, for example, was criticized by net neutrality supporters for effectively making it cheaper for customers to stream videos from Netflix and HBO, putting other video services at a disadvantage.

Without net neutrality, internet providers may pursue similar offers more aggressively, which would likely be viewed as a positive by consumers looking to save money on their streaming media.

Yet, some fear it’s also possible internet providers will one day begin charging customers more to access services like Netflix that are currently included as part of your monthly bill.

SO IS THIS A DONE DEAL?

Not quite. It’s very like this issue could end up being decided in court, or perhaps even by legislation in Congress.

“Whenever we do anything big and major, people go to court,” a senior FCC official said last month. “I certainly would not rule that out.”

11 comments

  • Proletariat

    Thank the gods organizations like the EFF and ACLU along with a couple dozen states are suing immediately to stop this change. The end of net neutrality will destroy the internet. Hopefully PA passes its own net neutrality laws like Washington State is.

  • trucker

    The sentence, “The net neutrality rules were approved by the FCC in 2015 amid an outpouring of online support.” Is a bald face lie. Net Neutrality was passed before the regulations were allowed to be seen by the most dishonest and corrupt administration in US history. Now the people who support it are issuing bomb threats and death threats and violence if it is repealed.

    • really real

      Sounds like a Breitbart/Fox news sheep to me. Get informed. It is amazing how easy it is for corporations to sway the gullible with this nonsense. They get in you a froth to oppose your own best interests. Sad.

  • cheap tightwad

    Weights and measures had always been no less them. With the internet it had changed to no more than. If you chose a higher speed you paid more than a lower one. When everyone is on at the same time it does not matter what plan you chose.

  • Jeff Woehrle

    Liberal snowflakes melting themselves into puddles over this.

    The quickest way to tell that it’s good for America.

    • E

      Haha ha! And here we go with another round of NEPA trailer trash advertising their low income, abusive upbringing! Ha ha ha! Duhh snowflake, twinkle toes, junior, tinkerbell Haha ha! The most hilarious aspect is that coal miner trash like you will be the FIRST to cry when their internet bill skyrockets, due to the fact that it will cut into your cigarette/cheap beer/lottery ticket/ ammunition/atv fuel/chewing tobacco budget. Oh no what will you do if you can’t watch wrestling, MMA or good god no Pennsylvania white trash drunk Outdoor Life. Ha ha ha! It is hilarious, but certainly predictable, that you are so stupid that you don’t realize this about money, not political party affiliation, money and nothing else. Now when you respond remember to follow in the steps of your peers and make incredibly dumb remarks, be sure not to address anything I wrote directly, that way you still think you’re clever. 😂😂😂😂

      • E

        @fue ha ha ha! “Kill yourself” ha ha ha! Is that what you used to say when running your mouth in high school? Ha ha ha! Is that it trailer trash? Is that all you’ve got? Ha ha ha! 😁😁😁 Do you recognize that emoji? It’s an uneducated, jeering, drunken, redneck NEPA loser, just like you. Lol.

    • Carl Brutananadilewski

      Jeff you’d support throwing children into fires if it “triggered those libs”. Pathetic thought process coming from someone in politics.

  • warningfakenews

    What a great idea! Let’s have the post office only be able to charge one price, no matter what size the package is or how fast it needs to be there. We can all pay just $12.99 for a stamp then, and it will be fair!

Comments are closed.