RIP Net Neutrality: FCC repeals Obama-era legislation

RIP Net Neutrality: FCC repeals Obama-era legislation Net Neutrality finally breathed its last after the FCC voted to nullify the existing legislation in the US. While nothing may change immediately, the decision will have long-term ramifications on internet usage. Shashank Venkat reports

In a move that squashes the concept of a free and open internet, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to reverse the existing net neutrality rules in the US. The repeal means that broadband companies will now have unprecedented power and control over their subscribers’ online experiences. The FCC had announced its plans to repeal the 2015 regulation last month.
 
This vote effectively ends the Obama government’s 2015 decision which held a tight rein over the ISPs and prevented them from controlling and blocking traffic and offering dedicated fast lanes. The Trump administration, though, has repeatedly argued that an unregulated business environment leads to more innovation and increased investments ultimately benefitting the economy. Thursday’s vote is a culmination of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s efforts over the past 11 months where he has strongly advocated against the older regulation. 
 
Not surprisingly, there has been a huge outcry after the vote. Activists, liberals and public interest groups have strongly condemned the decision. The Democrats are already exploring options to re-establish the older legislation, and many lawsuits may be on the way. Companies such as Netflix and Twitter have also publicly expressed their disappointment over the vote.
 
The public at large may not see any immediate changes to their internet experience, but it is quite likely that their broadband providers may roll out some new programs in the long run to take advantage from the new regulatory decision. However, in the near-term, they will likely bide their time and not rush to offer new plans amidst a wave of discontent in the public.
 
Also, it is worth noting that the new decision is not a free-for-all for telcos. According to some reports, while broadband providers do have the power to block and prioritise certain websites, they will have to disclose any such action after Thursday’s decision. They also have to explicitly publicise information about the websites that have been throttled and blocked on an easily accessible website.
 
That being said, the threat of broadband companies resorting to anti-competitive practices and content prioritisation is now a distinct possibility. It is also likely that these new steps will lead to higher costs for the nation’s broadband consumers. However, two major telecom companies, AT&T and Comcast, have clarified that the online experiences won’t change for their customers.
 
So, what’s next? Consumers in the US have no choice but to wait and watch. The ISPs may tread a cautious line and implement only subtle changes to avoid unnecessary attention. It is also possible that a lawsuit may reverse the unpopular legislation. Whatever happens, the next few months will be an anxious period for broadband users in the US! Keep watching this space.


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