The Federal Communication Commission, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, has voted to kill net neutrality, which is a set of rules put in place in 2015 under the Obama administration that classified internet service providers as "common carriers."
With the vote to repeal the net neutrality laws, ISPs will once again be classified as "information service" providers, as they were considered from 1996 until the implementation of the regulations in 2015. The outcome of the vote was expected, and ushers in a frightening new era for the internet.
How Does The Vote To End Net Neutrality Affect You?
With the vote to end net neutrality regulations, ISPs will no longer be regulated like other public utilities such as phone services. This means that companies such as AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and Charter will be able to block or slow down access to websites as they see fit. ISPs may also decide to charge users if they want to gain access to certain websites and online services.
The inventors, pioneers, and proponents of the internet have urged the FCC to cancel the vote, claiming that the agency simply does not know how the internet works.
Despite clamor from both public figures and the general population, the FCC voted to kill net neutrality. This means that ISPs may soon be able to charge their customers according to a "tiered internet" plan. With the net neutrality laws, there was no difference when users access a simple page or watch a video. However, with the regulations gone, ISPs may charge customers for a basic internet connection, and then charge extra for access to certain services such as Netflix and online gaming. Providers can also make access to websites and services faster, to promote their own products or after charging these online companies.
Can Net Neutrality Be Saved?
While the vote by the FCC to end net neutrality is final and could not be reversed, it will take weeks before the repeal comes into effect. Until then, political and legal battles will fill up the landscape.
A significant number of Democrats on Capitol Hill have already called for a bill to re-establish the net neutrality laws, and several Democratic state attorney general claimed that they will be filing lawsuits to impede the repeal of the regulations.
In addition, several groups such as The Internet Association, the trade group that represents technology companies such as Facebook and Google, are also considering legal action.
According to Pai, however, the vote to repeal net neutrality "is not going to end the Internet as we know it. It is not going to kill democracy and it's not going to stifle free expression online."
The future of the internet remains unclear, but the next few weeks will be crucial in determining where we end up.