Net Neutrality is dead for now. The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to repeal the tough net neutrality rules that prevented the Internet service providers from blocking or slowing some websites and prioritising others. The federal government will no longer regulate high-speed internet delivery as if it were a utility.
The action reversed the 2015 Obama-era regulatory plan that addressed a rapidly changing internet. Under regulations, FCC classified broadband providers as Title II common carriers, meaning internet service was considered a utility. The rules prevented the following practices:
Blocking: Internet service providers could not discriminate against lawful content by blocking certain websites.
Throttling: Service providers aren’t allowed to slow transmission of data to certain websites.
Paid Prioritisation: Internet providers cannot create an internet fast lane and charge a premium for companies and customers.
Thursday’s vote undoes all these rules. The new regulations largely don’t prevent service providers from doing anything. The only rule is the companies will have to publicly state what they are going to do.
What does this mean for consumers?
Many believe that internet service providers will take advantage of the freedom to prioritise certain types of traffic which could ultimately have an effect on speeds or pricing.
Consumer advocates say the broadband companies might start selling internet in bundles, much like how cable television is sold today. Under a bundling system, we might see sites divided into Social Media or Video-Streaming categories with different packages.
Another concern is that big media companies and affluent people will occupy the fast lane internet while others will be left behind. The non-neutrality policies might also affect the small and medium businesses, leaving them on an unfair playing field.
However, opponents of net neutrality argue that the new regulations will promote innovation and competition. The rollback of these rules would also benefit consumers because this will allow broadband service providers can now offer a wide variety of service options.
Despite what many fear, broadband companies aren’t likely to start charging you extra for YouTube or video streaming. It is likely to take weeks for the repeal to go into effect, so there might not be any immediate changes.