They did it. The Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal Net Neutrality, thus killing regulations put in place by the Obama administration that tried to keep the Internet fair and open.
The Federal Communications Commission, a five-member panel, voted on Dec. 14 on the fate of the Internet. Many expected the FCC to repeal “net neutrality,” with the vote falling along party lines – as the panel includes three Republicans and two Democrats. The results were as predicted, as the FCC panel voted by party line, 3-2. So, net neutrality is gone. Bummer.
So, what is net neutrality and why should anyone care? The term “net neutrality’ is the principle that all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) treat all internet content equally and do not give preference to some digital content providers over others, according to ABC News. This means that ISPs treats every website – be it CNN.com, HollywoodLife.com or JustinBieber.com – equally. The FCC, under then-President Barack Obama, voted in 2015 to classify consumer broadband service as a “public utility” under the Title II Order of the 1934 Communications Act, according to ABC News. Under that designation, the FCC adopted a no-blocking, no throttling and no-paid prioritization rule.
Under the Title II designation, ISPs were then regulated like other public utilities like electricity and phone service companies. However, President Donald Trump’s appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, 44, has pushed for the de-classification, which resulted in the Dec. 14 vote. (Update: Ajit was appointed to the FCC by President Obama in 2012. It was President Trump who picked Ajit to head the FCC. Just a FYI.)
Some have argued that Title II-based rules are unnecessary, saying the Internet was successful before the 2015 classification. However, there is evidence that ISPs did throttled traffic (Comcast in 2007, according to Tech Crunch) imposed secret caps on data (AT&T in 2011-2014) and put hidden fees without justification or documentation (Comcast again, 2016) and gave technical advantages to their own services over competitors (hello, AT&T in 2016, per Tech Crunch). These instances were only revealed and repealed after lawsuits were filed.
By removing the ban on throttling, ISPs will be required to publicly disclose any instances of blocking, throttling and paid-prioritization, according to CNN. The FCC would then hand the job of monitoring the Internet over to the Federal Trade Commission. “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, the vice president of Public Knowledge, a nonprofit focused on open Internet, said in a statement. “This gives free reign to broadband providers to block or throttle your broadband service as long as they inform you of it.”
Plus, many net neutrality supporters worry that without protections in place, ISPs will divide the Internet in similar ways cable providers. You know how you can get basic cable for cheap, but need to pay extra for channels like Showtime, HBO and Starz? Just replace those with Facebook, YouTube and the ability to stream Netflix at 1080p HD quality. Sure, ISPs will still allow you to watch YouTube videos, but without net neutrality, there’s nothing stopping them from tacking on an extra monthly charge in order to do so. This is why many protested the FCC’s intentions to repeal the classification.
What do you think about the net neutrality vote, HollywoodLifers?