What Net Neutrality Really Means - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

In mid-December, the Federal Communications Commission effectively killed net neutrality – a highly controversial move that leaves 8 in 10 Americans who supported the rules wondering what happens next.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is the principle that every website online deserves a level playing field. It’s just as easy for you to visit your local toy maker’s website as it is to visit a shopping giant like Amazon – your internet service provider, or ISP, can’t make you pay more to visit shopping sites, and can’t make your local toy maker or Amazon pay more to show up on your computer when you type in the domain name.

The rules that were in place prevented ISPs from throttling your speeds when you visited certain websites, and it stopped them from blacklisting sites so they could promote their own products. For example, Comcast couldn’t block your access to Netflix (or charge you more to access it over your internet connection) because it has its own streaming service.

With the rules repealed, though, nobody knows what ISPs will do next.

Who Wants Net Neutrality?

Studies have shown that net neutrality isn’t a political issue, although many people have tried to politicize it to divide opinions on the topic. In fact, 8 in 10 Americans, regardless of party, supported having net neutrality rules in place.

Ajit Pai of the Federal Communications Commission

Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC, said the rollback of rules was a good thing.

“We are helping consumers and promoting competition,” Pai said.

But that’s not true.

There have been several occasions where internet companies have violated net neutrality rules and had to pay penalties while reversing the damage – like when AT&T blocked FaceTime on iPhones using its network – and now, there won’t be any consequences.

“If we don’t have net neutrality protections that enforce tenets of fairness online, you give internet service providers the ability to choose winners and losers,” said Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit. “This is not hyperbole.”

What’s Next?

Some members of Congress – the only organization with the power to reinstate net neutrality rules – want to fight the FCC’s decision. However, the majority doesn’t want to. Even if they did, President Trump (who appointed Ajit Pai as the head of the FCC) could veto the legislation.

That leaves lawsuits as the only remaining option. Major companies, like Google, Amazon and others, have vowed to sue over net neutrality rules, and court cases could make it to the Supreme Court.

Until then, though, we’re at the mercy of Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and a handful of other internet service providers. These legal battles could drag on for years, and we can expect ISPs to test their power as early as January 2018.

You could see your internet services divided up into packages, where you’ll pay for base service, and then you’ll pay extra for access to music streaming services, video streaming services, or social media services. ISPs can charge you more for access to messaging services and email services, shopping websites, and other specific services and sites, too.

What Do You Think?

Did you approve of the net neutrality rules that were in place before December 2017? I’d love to hear your thoughts on what might happen (and what should happen) now that net neutrality is dead, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter!

Carlos Gamino