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FCC kills net neutrality, casts a shadow over the tech world
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FCC kills net neutrality, casts a shadow over the tech world

It's official. In a 3-2 vote on December 14, the Federal Communications Commission approved a measure to roll back the strict net neutrality rules enacted two years ago, effectively dealing a death blow to the free and open internet as we know it. Internet service providers are now free to throttle and restrict traffic, as well as charge extra for fast lane access. Good news for them, but most ordinary internet users and tech companies are united in dismay.

Net neutrality rules guaranteed that everybody got equal access to the internet, whether to create content or simply to access it. Now, big telecom companies are no longer prevented from blocking or restricting access to content or services as they please (so long as they tell us, first). They also lose their Title II common carrier designation, which will make it harder to legally reign them in in the future.

So what's this going to mean for users?

We've outlined in a previous article who will be the winners and losers when net neutrality rules would be removed. But we're unlikely to see major changes overnight. ISPs know that net neutrality rules were popular with the public (83% of Americans overall were in favor of keeping the regulations) and will do their best to advance their agenda subtly, presenting new restrictions and fees as exciting opportunities for you, the customer!

Even under the previous rules, ISPs were doing their best to discriminate between content whenever they could get away with it. T-Mobile has discriminated between types of content by giving customers unlimited access to music and then video from certain big brands. AT&T and Verizon have both 'zero-rated' their own video services, meaning that they don't count towards your data consumption, and will always perform better than the competitors.

So, what we're seeing is a situation where services that have a business relationship with your provider will simply work better and faster than those that don't. Other services could be made slower, more expensive, or just blocked.

The trouble is, most people hardly have a choice when it comes to internet service in America. That means a lot of customers will be at the complete mercy of their ISP, without any option to switch to a competitor if their ISP strikes a deal they don't like. The more fortunate metropolitan internet users will have a little more choice in how they get screwed.

It not just consumers that are going to feel the hurt, though.

Tech companies express their dismay

Jessica Rosenworcel, one of the two Democrats on the commission, insisted that repealing net neutrality rules was  “Not good for consumers. Not good for businesses. Not good for anyone who connects and creates online.”

And it's true. The FCC killing net neutrality is only business-friendly to the big network providers, but is crippling to other businesses. Internet companies and startups are dismayed by the FCC's move, and many put out statements expressing their disappointment.

Noble words from Netflix, though it's worth remembering that having to strike deals with ISPs with ambitions to launch their own video streaming services could end up very costly for them.

Google was also a strong supporter of net neutrality throughout the whole ordeal, despite their size and prominence giving them an advantage over smaller companies in the furtive deal-making that will be taking place.

And Twitter, an amplifier of the free speech of everybody from oppressed minorities and rebels up to, infamously, the President of the United States, vows to fight to reverse the decision.

What can you do?

The specific state the of internet after it's carved up by big ISPs like a Christmas turkey remains to be seen, and, as mentioned before, changes will likely be gradual and insidious. I would encourage everyone to enjoy the internet as it is while they can, and take a moment to think about how your experience would be diminished if your provider started discriminating against your favorite content.

The only hope to save net neutrality lies with Congress and, unless you've got piles of donor money stashed away that you hadn't got around to spending yet, the best thing you can do is write and call your representative and demand that they pass a "resolution of disapproval" to reverse the FCC's vote.

For more information and help on how to do this, visit battleforthenet.com. Good luck!

What do you think? Is everyone sharing this gloomy mood, or is anyone actually optimistic about the future of the internet after the net neutrality repeal?


Readers' favorite comments

  • Rusty H. Dec 15, 2017

    "Net neutrality" only came into being, in 2015, when the Obama administration signed it. The FCC just undid the rule. I remember having good access to the internet in 2015, so undoing this, just removes another layer of government. Now, if the ISP's are STUPID enough to start jacking around, you know good and well congress will do something about it, for good or bad.


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  • Mark
    • Admin
    Dec 17, 2017 Link to comment

    This vote meant nothing to the average consumer only the people who use massive amounts of data will be affected.

  • "Net Neutrality" allowed for more Consumer Protection ..... but if any Internet Service Provider wants to mess with a Customer? There are enough ISP's out there to replace your existing ISP; and I can't believe they would all be this stupid to throttle / block your internet access (in fact? the 1st thing I'd do as an ISP is guarantee what my Customers want - and market that as my slogan!)

    Personally? I'm staying with Cox Communication for "Internet Only" here in Las Vegas; until a 5G Network comes to town (I'm with MetroPCS - which uses T-Mobiles's Network - and it's only a matter of time before I bundle Phone / Internet under a 5G Network with them!). I'm not a "Data Hog"! I don't waste 4G LTE / WiFi data - I only use when necessary (Netlfix, Hulu, News) and love my Digital Antenna (Stateside? You get what you want + plenty of free "Digital Sub Channels" - ME TV, THIS TV, HEROES & ICONS, COMET TV, etc!)

    I'm all for "Consumer Protection"; which means I support a more "Free / Open Marketplace" vs just "Net Neutrality" (what does this mean? it means all of those homes - condos - apartments out here that Cox Communication pre-wired during construction for Cable / Internet have to allow for a Competitor to come in and offer the same - or better - service vs holding a legal "nope we won't allow that" clause ... and yeah that's what killed getting Google Fiber here in Las Vegas!)

  • "Net neutrality" only came into being, in 2015, when the Obama administration signed it. The FCC just undid the rule. I remember having good access to the internet in 2015, so undoing this, just removes another layer of government. Now, if the ISP's are STUPID enough to start jacking around, you know good and well congress will do something about it, for good or bad.

  • '83% of Americans overall were in favor of keeping the regulations' - is this true? How they can approve something where 83% of people are against it? This is just horrible, they really don't care about people at all

  • Near term, while the ISPs are likely to continue trying to buy up content streams (AT&T / Time Warner) for future fast-laning under their oligopolies, this is going to be a lot like Trump's noisy but failed attempt to move America back to coal-fueled electricity and reverse industry's commitments to stop climate change - big corporations are not going to risk wasting billions on Trump's ideas, in this case reconfiguring their "last mile" broadband delivery and alienating end-users, if Trump and his FCC are just a political blip. Over the long term, if the GOP survives the next election cycle, it's a lousy decision that will turn the internet into cable TV: crushing startups, jacking up prices for decent service, and cementing the position of content giants in the market. (Whatever happens, the three painted young courtesans on the FCC will scrub their rouge and mascara, throw off their feather boas and fishnet stockings, and step into limousines as new Directors on the Boards of the ISPs.)

    • OMG, what did we do before 2015 when it didn't exist? I don't remember the world falling apart but I do remember Obama giving the keys to the internet to the UN. How's that for government regulation for ya!?!?!?

      • I'm here in Canada with NN, and in 2015 I was paying C$80 (U$60) a month for 5mb down and 1mb up on DSL -with a 60gb cap. Now I've got fibre optic 300mb both ways for the same money with 125gb cap. There are obligations to improve rural services in a much tougher geography than the USA. The oligopoly services here are regulated more or less as they should be, and still making tons of money. The US last mile infrastructure, built before Obama's rules, is nothing to brag about by comparison with any advanced western economy and costs for service are laughable compared with developed Asia and Western Europe. That's what you did before 2015, and it was the ISPs early tries at privileging content with some pretty hot pushback that motivated the NN rules - they didn't come out of the blue.

  •   31
    Deactivated Account Dec 15, 2017 Link to comment

    it's gonna be a big beautiful business opportunity..
    greed for profit Trumps democracy.