The Federal Communications Commission's order to roll back President Obama-era net neutrality protections goes into effect Monday. ISPs formerly made the case that net neutrality failed to allow them to recoup the costs incurred in linking their networks to content providers, often citing Netflix, which consumes a double-digit percentage of all Internet traffic in the United States during peak hours.
"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, VP at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit that focuses on the open internet, said in an earlier statement. ISPs usually offer zero-rating plans to promote a particular service that they own or have a stake in. The repeal will also let ISPs charge websites or online services for priority access to consumers. Telecoms are now free to block, slow, or otherwise discriminate against online content and services.
Current FCC chairman Ajit Pai spearheaded the effort to return the internet to the way it was before the rules took effect, and despite the overwhelming support for keeping the rules intact, the FCC voted 3-2 to reverse course. OR followed in Washington's footsteps in April, passing its own net neutrality law. T-Mobile, for example, was criticized by net neutrality supporters for effectively making it cheaper for customers to stream videos from Netflix and HBO, putting other video services at a disadvantage.
But both of these approaches are expected to lead to court challenges by the FCC, whose new policy on net neutrality contains explicit language that tries to preempt states from doing exactly what the legislation and executive orders are meant to do. If it's clear their constituents are against the net neutrality repeal - and that it's a key issue they'll vote on - enough Republicans may be swayed. ISPs would only be punished by the FCC if they fail to disclose what the commission used to consider net neutrality violations.
Net neutrality repeal - is it the end of the world?In California, SB 822 is scheduled for Assembly committee hearings this month after the state senate approved it at the end of May.
These are set to replaced by a set of lighter-touch regulations passed months ago.
The flip side is there are many areas where broadband availability is limited to one or two options, giving consumers little or no choice in the matter. Yet critics say companies are likely to invest simply because they now believe they can ramp up prices and earn more money from consumers and websites.
Pai calls the FTC the "nation's premier consumer protection agency".
"Consumers won't notice the shift at first, but over time the internet will become unrecognizable", she said.
In the meantime, some ISPs have promised in the absence of the federal net neutrality rules to not slow data or block it, and with state laws in flux and a federal showdown possible, it's unlikely any would push the envelope at present.