On December 14th, the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality protections, claiming they are a “heavy-handed, utility-style….mistake”. This regulation reversal could fundamentally alter the way in which we as consumers use Internet sites and pay for service.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai claims this retraction of regulations will eliminate the “micromanagement of the Internet by the federal government and simply require that Internet service providers (ISPs) be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”
Inaugural net neutrality protections were approved by the FCC and put into effect in 2015. Also called the open Internet, the mission of net neutrality is to ensure the Internet remains ‘open and fair,’ certifying via regulations that Internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon treat all web content equally. The regulations came on the heels of numerous infractions by ISPs secretly limiting speeds and content access.
This open Internet means consumers can access and load apps, websites and video equivalently regardless of where the content is hosted. The ratification of net neutrality assuaged concerns that a lack of regulation would lead to providers throttling (reducing speed) or blocking content as well as instituting tiered Internet plans that would in effect provide faster service only to those who pay a premium.
Net neutrality supporters claim that without Internet regulation, the creation of a socio-economic digital divide could surface, creating a class of information “haves” and “have nots.”
Steeling themselves for a lengthy battle, open Internet advocates are prepared to legally contest the recent reversal. Many large tech companies including Amazon, Google, Twitter and Facebook support net neutrality and staged protests in defense of net neutrality when Pai’s proposed reversal was in its review period. The Internet Association, a trade group serving as the ‘unified voice of the Internet economy’, called Pai’s proposition “the end of net neutrality as we know it.”
Association president and CEO, Michael Beckerman stated, “This proposal undoes nearly two decades of bipartisan agreement on baseline net neutrality principles that protect Americans’ ability to access the entire Internet.”
AT&T and Verizon claim to believe in the concept of an open Internet but didn’t support the now overturned regulations. The Silicon Valley and beyond all saw protests soon after the FCC made its announcement. Millions of comments have been submission in opposition of Pai’s regulation role-back.
Consumers won’t see an immediate change in their service but soon enough, providers could begin offering revamped plans, possibly based on “pay to play” service levels. Although this alteration in net neutrality could prove to impact people and businesses nationwide, as the hotbed of high tech, Silicon Valley companies and residents alike are rising up to do all they can to ensure access to the Internet and all of its content remains “open and free.”