"Now, on June 11, these unnecessary and harmful Internet regulations will be repealed and the bipartisan, light-touch approach that served the online world well for almost 20 years will be restored", FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement Thursday. But now there are fewer rules governing how internet service providers can operate. And rightly so. The gutting of net neutrality is a symbol of our broken democracy.
The Republican-led Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines in December to repeal the rules, which were meant to prevent internet providers from blocking, speeding up, or slowing down access to specific online services.
But Trump's pick to run the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, called those rules "heavy-handed" and vowed to end them. The rule stipulates that every ISP must clearly disclose their practices to consumers and that the Federal Trade Commission will regulate any ISP that imposes unfair or deceptive practices. Pai says this system lets the FTC focus on "the bad apples" and allows other players "thrive in a free market".
In May, congress overturned the repeal with a bipartisan vote in the Senate. "Consumers want an open Internet". But far more realistically, we're probably going to see some gradual shifts in our service over time, especially since Comcast backed down on its good-faith promise the day the repeal passed and has previously limited access to peer-to-peer applications.
Pai told CBS that he doesn't believe regulating the internet in the same way phone networks are regulated is the best way to achieve the goal of a "free and open" internet. However, the bill has yet to be voted on in the House.
"I don't think anything gets better for consumers", said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, one of two Democrats on the five-person commission.
She worries that with the regulations now expired, some websites will be blocked or censored, and service could slow. "This misguided decision awoke a sleeping giant, because the American public is demanding action".
To restore the net neutrality rules, the House would have to vote in line with the Senate, and President Donald Trump would also have to sign the measure. Congress could step in if several states pass their own legislation, and given the Republican majority, advocates for net neutrality are skeptical about the outcome. In January, attorneys general in 22 states and the District of Columbia filed a protective petition for review of the order. Plain and simple, thanks to the FCC's rollback of net neutrality, Internet providers have the legal green light, the technical ability, and business incentive to discriminate and manipulate what we see, read, and learn online.