- In an expected move, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under chairman Ajit Pai voted along party lines to end Obama-era net neutrality rules, per the Associated Press.
- The move to end net neutrality has been supported mainly by the big telecoms including Verizon, Comcast and AT&T, while tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and others lobbied at different times to keep net neutrality rules in place.
- While the FCC has jurisdiction over the regulations, the recent vote wasn’t without controversy over the rushed process and a lack of hearings that is typically standard for these types of votes, and although the board voted along party lines to end net neutrality, the previous rules enjoyed bipartisan support. As a result, there will likely be a multistate lawsuit led by New York’s attorney general, and Democrats said they want Congress to overturn the FCC vote although that legal route is a long shot for procedural reasons.
The key takeaway is that even though the vote went in favor of dismantling net neutrality, the issue is far from over given the likely legal challenges.
The changes could go into effect as soon as early next year and if so ISPs, such as the telecom giants that lobbied heavily for the vote overturning net neutrality, could take steps that throttle freely flowing internet traffic, such as forcing websites like Netflix or Facebook to pay fees or have their traffic slowed on certain carriers. This, of course, will have to be weighed against insuring customers remain satisfied or telecoms will lose customers. The issue becomes more complicated because some of the telecoms also own businesses that directly compete with other digital companies that might be affected by forced slower web traffic.
Pai has couched the move as “restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence," in reference to the fact the net neutrality has only been in place since 2015.
The vote to end net neutrality was seen as inevitable following the election of Donald Trump as president and Republicans gaining control over the FCC board. Still, the process getting to yesterday’s vote has been contentious and with the FCC breaking a number of norms in how it traditionally conducts its business on its rare high-profile votes.