Net neutrality has been rolled back - but it's not dead yet

FCC Ajit Pai

They prevent those providers, the largest being Comcast, AT & T, and Verizon from blocking internet content, throttling bandwidth and enabling paid prioritization for specific websites.

A number of states have tried to get around the FCC's repeal by either developing legislation laying out their own net neutrality rules, or by issuing gubernatorial executive orders that limit which Internet providers can do business with the state. Under the new guidelines, ISPs can block, throttle, or prioritize internet content as much as they like, as long as they clearly disclose to customers that that's what they're doing. Others, including the governors of Montana and NY, used executive orders to force net neutrality.

However, companies are likely to drop these self-imposed restrictions; they will just wait until people aren't paying a lot of attention, said Marc Martin, a former FCC staffer who is now chairman of communications practice at the law firm Perkins Coie. This, according to Pai, "will allow consumers to make an informed decision about which Internet service provider is best for them". Those on the political left (and about 83 percent of Americans) feel that net neutrality regulations were important for personal freedom and made for a more fair marketplace. That means there is nothing legally stopping a broadband provider from selling faster service at a premium or slowing some content.

"The gutting of net neutrality is a symbol of our broken democracy", said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight For the Future, in a statement Monday.

Without net neutrality, internet providers may pursue similar offers more aggressively.

"America's internet economy became the envy in the world", he said.

Pai argued that net neutrality created a disincentive for internet services to invest in their networks. Although the vote occurred months ago, it took time for the results to take effect. Many ISPs seem to be concerned that any drastic move could force many of their customers to subscribe to new internet options like 5G when it rolls out later this year.

"It's an uphill fight", says Chris Lewis, VP of Public Knowledge, a tech advocacy group that has urged the House to take action.

As already noted, today's the day that the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules are officially eliminated. They don't want their broadband providers blocking websites or censoring content, and this agency gave broadband providers the legal right to do so. The rules initally passed under President Obama, but the FCC under the Trump Administration discarded the rule in December. Congress is still fighting to uphold net neutrality, and states continue to find ways to enact their own laws regarding the controversial regulations. We're also waiting to hear whether the Supreme Court will agree to hear a separate lawsuit on net neutrality.

Washington and OR now have their own net neutrality laws, and a bill is pending in California's legislature.

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