FCC Has Repealed Net Neutrality Rules, But Congress Can Reverse The Decision

Rally organizers carry away props following a protest outside the Federal Communication Commission building in Washington D.C. against the end of net neutrality rules on Dec. 14 2017

Net neutrality is now a thing of the past.

E-commerce start-ups have feared that they could end up on the losing end of paid prioritization, with their websites and services loading more slowly than those run by internet behemoths. Even if the bill passes the House of Representatives, it heads to the White House where chances are almost impossible that President Trump signs the resolution eliminating the first major act of deregulation of his administration.

As the FCC's rollback of net neutrality protections officially took effect on Monday, a broad coalition of free press and digital rights campaigners vowed to maintain pressure on members of Congress to either restore the federal rules "or prepare to face our wrath" in the November midterm elections.

While the now-defunct net neutrality rules didn't specifically address interchange disputes, they did give the FCC broad latitude to oversee the "general conduct" of broadband providers to determine if the companies were being anticompetitive or interfering with customers' ability to access internet sites and services. Some states are creating their own net neutrality rules, but are barred by the FCC from implementing them. 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. Opponents of the net neutrality law - including big broadband providers like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast - argued that getting rid of net neutrality would lead to new investment and a more open and competitive internet. 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.

The governors of New York, New Jersey, and Montana, for example, have each signed executive orders requiring broadband providers with state contracts to be net neutral. Net neutrality is dead.

The now-defunct rules required companies that provided internet service to consumers to abide by a series of rules that prevented them from blocking lawful websites, manipulating internet speeds or striking deals with companies like Google and Facebook for so-called "internet fast lanes".

The FCC changes were passed last December, shepherded by Trump-appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who says the new lighter-touch rules are more market-friendly than the "utility-style regulation" in the Obama-era.

"The internet should be an open platform where you are free to go where you want, and say and do what you want, without having to ask anyone's permission", Pai said. They will have the right to discriminate and favor the Internet traffic of those companies with whom they have pay-for-play arrangements and the right to consign all others to a slow and bumpy road.

Senate Democrats had urged the House of Representatives to vote to reverse the FCC decision before Monday, and still hold out hope of a vote later this year. Several states including NY and Washington, have passed regulations that impose net neutrality on a local level.

Related news: