The Federal Communications Commission voted 2-1 Thursday to advance a Republican plan to reverse the Obama administration's 2015 "net neutrality" order.
Today's vote doesn't immediately undo the 2015 Open Internet Order.
Yet Thursday's vote does not mean current net neutrality rules have been repealed just yet. Upon taking over as FCC chair when Donald Trump became president, Commissioner Ajit Pai made it clear that net neutrality and other rules that he considered interfering with free-market innovation and competition were on the chopping block. "If you unequivocally trust your #broadband provider to put the public interest over their self-interest then today's @FCC action is for you", she wrote on Twitter.
For example, according to USTelecom, the Internet Association cited a 58.4 percent increase in telecom patent applications, but the period cited was 2010 to 2012, long before the net neutrality regulations were imposed. "As the public comment process begins, the American people again have the opportunity to make their voices heard".
Many fear that once the equal access rules go, ISPs will start blocking and throttling some data while letting other packets travel on "fast lanes" because firms have paid more to reach customers quicker. Groups that back the 2015 rules have said they plan to campaign against representatives who don't help reinstate the rules.
Pai wants public input on whether the FCC should keep its "bright line" rules, and said his decision would depend partly on the comments.
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The FCC is now taking comments on its website so you can let it know where you stand on the issue of net neutrality. Pai would remove strong utility-style legal authority that critics say over-regulates telephone and cable providers, and that defenders say is needed to enforce fair treatment of web traffic.
"We applaud chairman Pai and commissioner Michael O'Rielly for remaining focussed on creating light touch regulatory environment that is pro-consumer, pro-investment, and pro-innovation, especially with the present partisan political rhetoric and debate", said David Cohen, Comcast's senior executive vice-president. The release about the proposal said, "Today, modern communications enable stations and community members to interact more directly, without the presence of a local broadcast studio".
Sohn, now a distinguished fellow at the Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown University Law School, suggested Pai will have the burden of showing the courts how circumstances have changed since the USA appellate court in the District of Columbia ruled on the legitimacy of the Open Internet Order just previous year.
For now, existing net neutrality rules are still in place.
However, by rolling back on net neutrality, consumers in the USA may soon discover that some of their favourite online services may not load as quickly as others, depending on financial arrangements that are in place.