Americans woke up Monday morning to a brand new internet climate as the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality rules took effect – and it could be sooner than later that internet users notice a difference.
The FCC voted to reverse course on Obama-era net neutrality rules that sought to ensure uniformity of internet access, but with those rules gone, companies can now change the game by offering faster internet speeds to certain websites and customers – at a price, of course.
Slate notes that such changes are unlikely to happen immediately, at least not in a manner that internet users will find noticeable.
But the door has been opened, and unless legal or congressional efforts to undo the FCC’s decision are successful, there is nothing to stop internet service providers from walking through.
What could Americans anticipate?
Under the new network neutrality rules, internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T are allowed to throttle traffic that travels over their network or even block access to entire websites as long as the companies alert subscribers in their terms of service that they reserve the right to do so. But since most people in the United States don’t have more than one or two internet providers to choose from for broadband service, if users don’t wish to accept those terms, many won’t have anywhere else to go for their internet. Without net neutrality rules stopping them, internet providers will also be able to charge websites a fee to reach users faster.
Several lawsuits are underway, including a coalition of state attorneys general who have taken issue with the FCC’s commenting process – of the 23 million responses, many were faked, “submitted using stolen identities and the names of dead people, or filed by bots, not people.”
And hundreds of thousands of comments – in favor of repealing the rules – were found to be submitted using Russian email addresses.
But legal efforts are still in process or just beginning, and there is no guarantee they will find success via the courts.
Likewise, the Senate attempt at overruling the FCC decision is likely to stall in the House, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 235-193.
Even if the 20 congressional Republicans needed to push a bill through the House were to cross party lines, it remains uncertain that President Trump would sign the legislation.
In the meantime:
[B]e on the lookout Monday and over the next few weeks for notices from your internet service provider with changes to your terms of service. If you get an email from Comcast saying it’s updated its policies, don’t immediately delete it. Take a look: Nestled inside may well be the first strikes against net neutrality. But the fight to bring the internet rules back from the dead is still ongoing. In order for those working for a more open internet to have any chance at success, users are going to have to continue to care and speak out about why open internet protections matter to them—even, perhaps especially, if it’s not immediately clear anything has changed.