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Update on Net Neutrality Repeal

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  • In a Thursday vote, the Federal Communications Commission repealed the net-neutrality rules it put in place in 2015.
  • The repeal is most likely mean higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.
  • A repeal is good news for large telecommunications and internet companies.

The United States Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to repeal its net-neutrality rules.

To know more about Net Neutrality, read our post ‘Whats the Deal About Net Neutrality

Here’s what you need to know about net neutrality, the proposal, and what’s likely to happen next:

The FCC has had some form of net-neutrality protections in place since 2005. After two different versions of the rules were struck down in court, the FCC in 2015 officially designated broadband providers as telecommunications companies, a move that allowed it to put in place new rules grounded in its authority over such companies under Title II of the Communications Act.

The latest proposal from the FCC reverses the designation of broadband providers as telecommunications companies and do away with the three major net-neutrality prohibitions.

Under the new proposal, companies would be able to block, slow, or provide fast lanes to particular sites or services.

Their only responsibility under the proposal would be to disclose such practices to customers. The FCC now leaves it up to the Federal Trade Commission to determine whether broadband companies were doing anything they hadn’t disclosed.

What happens after the repeal?

The rules won’t take effect for a few months — some 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register. In the meantime, consumer-advocacy groups and other opponents will almost certainly file suit to try to block them. Members of Congress, particularly Democrats, are likely to introduce legislation to try to overturn them.

Assuming the rules take effect on schedule, broadband providers — wired and wireless alike — would be free to create so-called fast lanes for their sites and services and those of partners that pay for the privilege. They’d also be free to charge consumers extra to access certain services like streaming video, or to block or slow down sites or services that compete with theirs — or that they simply don’t like.

The only obligation broadband providers would have would be to tell you what they’re doing. But such disclosures are sure to come in the kind of fine print that few of us understand or even read.

 

Who benefits from the repeal?

The big telecommunications companies are cheering the impending death of the net-neutrality rules, in part because they think the repeal will allow them to make more money and give them more control.

But even the large internet companies that support the rules — including Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix — are likely to benefit from their demise. There’s a good chance, once the rules are gone, that broadband providers will try to make internet companies pay to transmit their websites, stream their videos, or send their data to the providers’ customers. And the internet giants, with their deep pockets, are the companies in the best position to afford those tolls.

The end of the rules could end up cementing the dominance of the big tech companies by thwarting their potential competitors and disruptors.

Who loses?

Normal internet users like you and me would lose out with the repeal of the net-neutrality rules. It won’t happen overnight, but you can expect broadband providers to start limiting what you can access on the internet or charging you more to get to the sites and services you regularly use.

Also, entrepreneurs and smaller internet companies — the people and startups pioneering new kinds of services or aiming to be the next Netflix, Google, or Facebook — could lose out if they can’t afford the broadband companies’ potential tolls.

What’s next?

The main action on net neutrality is likely to move to the courts after the FCC vote, but a decision is unlikely to come until at least a year after the repeal.

Given the broad public support for net neutrality, there’s a good chance lawmakers or the FCC will try to reinstate the rules if Democrats regain the majority in Congress next year or the White House in 2020.

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