As expected, the FCC repealed the Net Neutrality principles voted in by the Tom Wheeler-led commission in 2015. Also as expected, the vote was on party lines, with the three Republican commissioners voting to repeal, while the two Democrat commissioners dissented. Since this outcome surprised no one, a singular question remains: what’s next?
This remains an important issue; likely influencing how you consume bandwidth in your household. What follows is a quick analysis of the ruling and its expected effects on the Internet in the United States. Also, check out our previous coverage of the topic to learn more about its underlying concepts.
Can the FTC Police Internet Providers?
One of the major points behind Ajit Pai’s repeal involves ISPs self-policing the potential blocking of websites, creating paid Internet “fast lanes,” or throttling bandwidth. The plan is to engage the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to ensure Internet providers keep their promises. Dissenting FCC Commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel is skeptical.
“But the FTC is not the expert agency for communications. It has authority over unfair and deceptive practices. But to evade FTC review, all any broadband provider will need to do is add new provisions to the fine print in its terms of service. In addition, it is both costly and impractical to report difficulties to the FTC,” said Rosenworcel.
Michael Powell, president of Internet and Television Association, an industry trade group, feels the worries about bandwidth throttling and fast lanes are misplaced. “None of the fire-and-brimstone predictions will come to pass. The nation’s broadband providers have lived the principles of net neutrality for years,” said Powell.
Net Neutrality remains Popular – Congress to the Rescue?
The principles of Net Neutrality remain popular with the public – 84 percent support them according to one poll by the University of Maryland – and both sides of the aisle in Congress. In fact, Republican Senator, Susan Collins of Maine, tried to get the FCC to delay their vote. Nonetheless, bipartisan legislation is likely to cement some of the concepts of the “Free Internet” into law.
Before that happens, expect the lawsuits to fly, with industry giants, like Amazon, Google, and others expected to take part. Part of their reasoning includes the fact this repeal took place only two years after the original FCC ruling in favor of Net Neutrality. In short, it is an “arbitrary and capricious” move violating the Administrative Procedures Act.
A potential congressional law could give the FCC the authority to enforce some Net Neutrality concepts without the reclassification of Internet service as a utility. Pai and others felt that latter part of the 2015 ruling overreached the FCC’s authority. Ultimately, pay close attention to see how this vital issue continues to evolve throughout next year and beyond.
Count on us to continue covering Net Neutrality as it continues to affect your Internet usage.