As of June 11th, 2018, it’s official: The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of net neutrality rules stands, giving internet service providers more control over the content we see and how fast we can access it. While some are saying that this is a big win for broadband providers across the nation, we probably won’t see any significant, overt changes at first. But the question remains: with the old rules coming off the books, what happens next? Here’s what you need to know.
Hold up … What’s Net Neutrality Again?
In simplest terms, net neutrality is equal access to internet content. And under net neutrality principles, internet providers should not be allowed to interfere with your ability to access different websites, apps, or any other service of your choice. The net neutrality concept can also be interpreted to mean that all online companies should receive the same treatment, and online companies should not be able to “pay extra fees” for faster delivery to internet users’ devices. If that were the case, then start-ups and small businesses would inevitably fumble compared to the bigger companies with more funding.
And What Were the Net Neutrality Rules?
Back in 2015 the FCC, then led by Tom Wheeler, set out to give the principles of net neutrality some structure by formatting them into more formal regulations. The FCC approved rules that banned both the blocking and slowing of web content by various internet providers and also the practice of paid prioritization. The final provision, “a general conduct” standard granted the FCC permission to look into any and all broadband practices they deemed or believed to be problematic.
What’s the Impact of the Repeal?
Along with the repeal comes an end of the bans on blocking, slowing, and paid prioritizations. Internet providers are now free to do as they please as long as they disclose what they are doing to the public on their websites or to the FCC.
Under the old policy, if internet providers were found blocking or slowing a website, it was grounds for an immediate legal repercussion. Now, under the new policy, a violation might only occur if an internet provider decides to block or slow websites and not disclose they are doing so to the public. This new approach grants a lot of regulation and violation enforcement to the Federal Trade Commission (a sister agency of the FCC).
Okay, So What’s Next?
Although the repeal is officially starting this week, over 20 states are actively suing the FCC trying to stop the repeal. States like California, New York, Connecticut, and Maryland are now trying to create their own legislation with their own set net neutrality rules, as well as issue state-level executive orders that restrict certain internet providers from doing business with the state. Several tech companies like Mozilla, Kickstarter, Etsy, and Foursquare, and state attorneys general are also launching lawsuits against the FCC as they wish to preserve the old net neutrality rules.
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