This week, the Federal Communications Commission announced a plan to end net neutrality, after years of back-and-forth on the subject between telecommunications providers and consumers. If passed, the net neutrality repeal will reverse a prior decision that defined internet access as a public utility, preventing ISPs from “ making the rules” about what content consumers were able to access. Net neutrality has been at the heart of public debate for nearly two decades, with telecommunications giants claiming it restricts their ability to create scaled packages and consumers calling it supportive of free speech.
Key Facts in the Net Neutrality Decision
- Such a decision could pave the way for providers to charge more for accessing certain forms of content, like Netflix or Youtube, but it will also make it easier for organizations (including the government) to block access to content it defines as problematic.
- Most telecommunications companies claim they will only slow access to websites containing illegal content. Comcast representatives confirmed this recently in a public statement. “We do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content — and we will be transparent with our customers about these policies.”
- Consumer watchdogs point out that repealing neutrality would also make it easier for ISPs to charge for high-end, premium website access, including Netflix 4K HD and many localized online cable streaming platforms. Consumers who wish to keep accessing these services could see astronomically high bills as a result of the repeal.
- F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, said that the plan is little more than a path to ensure that the government stops “micromanaging the internet.” He also identified how the repeal would potentially make it easier for ISPs to communicate honestly with consumers. “…the F.C.C. would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them.”
- With cable numbers declining, cable companies have been scrambling to create new solutions consumers will actually utilize. Online streaming services are a natural answer to that shift, but the repeal could make such services significantly more expensive as a whole – perhaps even on par with older cable services.
- The repeal is especially concerning for sites with extensive user-generated content, like Reddit or Facebook. If passed, it would effectively give ISPs and the government the ability to limit access to sites hosting anti-government or anti-telecom sentiments (including those fighting net neutrality now and in the past).
Would the end of net neutrality change your browsing habits?