Net neutrality is no more. The FCC ruled 3-2 today to repeal the 2015 rules that required Internet service providers to treat all Internet data as the same, regardless of its kind, source, or destination.
During the highly anticipated hearing on the issue, Mignon L. Clyburn, Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, said the FCC is now “handing the keys to the Internet over to a handful of multi-billion dollar corporations.”
Clyburn, who along with fellow Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and then-chairman Tom Wheeler, championed the net neutrality rules in 2015 under the Obama Administration, essentially making Internet access a utility service, not a luxury. Clyburn said while consumers may not feel the burden right away, be prepared to pay more and be left with slower speeds. She also said to get ready for the “Cheshire cat form of net neutrality.”
“We will be in a world where regulatory substance fades to black, and all that is left is a broadband provider’s toothy grin and those oh so comforting words: we have every incentive to do the right thing,” Clyburn said. “What they will soon have, is every incentive to do their own thing.”
Voting in favor of the repeal, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said the decision will not “break the Internet” but revert to a highly successful bi-partisan approach prior to 2015 and that the headlines and fears of net neutrality loss are really a “scary bedtime story for the children of telecom geeks.”
In his statement, Commissioner Brendan Carr said the repeal is returning to a lighter regulation that worked for most of the Internet’s existence.
Following his fellow Republican commissioners, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said broadband investment has actually decreased since the 2015 because of net neutrality regulations.
“The Internet wasn’t broken in 2015 … it was the one thing … we can all agree has been a stunning success,” Pai said.
In undoing the regulations, the FCC said the new order would require more transparency from ISPs, which will now be enforced by the FTC.
While broadband companies say they do not intend to block, slow down, or prioritize any web traffic as a result of this repeal, there is a distinct possibility that these ISPs could start charging websites that want to make their content available to their internet subscribers. As the Farmer’s Daughter recently pointed out, ISPs could also have a completely unregulated monopoly on what content we’re able to access on the internet. That would include our small number of rural voices.
The repeal is likely headed to court. Several groups have already said they plan to file lawsuits and there may be a push to Congress to bring back regulations through legislation.
Clyburn said she realizes there are many questions on the mind of Americans right now, including what the repeal of net neutrality will mean for them. To help answer outstanding questions she plans to host a town hall through Twitter next Tuesday at 2pm EST.
“What saddens me is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is abandoning you, but what I am pleased to be able to say is the fight to save net neutrality does not end today,” Clyburn said. “This agency does not have, the final word. Thank goodness.”