FCC Votes to End Net
By: Bianca Ybarra, Esq.
would agree that the internet plays an increasingly important role in our
everyday lives. As a result, any change that impacts the regulation of the
internet quickly becomes a newsworthy topic.
term “net neutrality” is the principle that service providers must refrain from
treating traffic on the internet differently. Regardless of whether a user is
streaming video or posting pictures, service providers must not block or
discriminate against content or applications.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) net neutrality
passed in 2015 under the Obama administration. The goal of the regulations was
to ensure the internet remain open and fair. In February of 2015, the FCC ruled
in favor of net neutrality when they reclassified broadband as a common carrier
under Title II of the Communications
Act of 1934
and Section 706 of the Telecommunications
Act of 1996.
The purpose of the regulations was to preserve internet integrity by encouraging
consumer choice, freedom of expression, competition, and the freedom to
with the regulations, internet service providers were prohibited from discriminating
against online content. More precisely, internet service providers were not
allowed to regulate traffic from specific websites or put their own content at
an advantage over rivals. This made intentionally speeding up or slowing down
traffic from specific websites or illegal. For instance, AT&T could not
slow down a service like Netflix to put its own streaming video service at an
advantage, nor could it force Hulu to pay more money to receive faster streaming
In a victory for
internet service providers all over the United States like Comcast, Verizon,
and AT&T, the FCC voted to repeal the regulations it passed in 2015 that
prevented broadband companies from blocking or slowing down access to websites
At its monthly
meeting on December 14, 2017, and despite widespread opposition, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was appointed by President Donald
trump moved forward with the vote. In a 3-2 vote, the repeal proposal passed, removing
the net neutrality regulations put in place just two years ago.
This vote eliminates
the regulations preventing internet providers from blocking or slowing down
online content. Thus, for instance, Comcast can now charge customers who use
Netflix more for using so much bandwidth; or AT&T can, in theory, block
access to any websites it chooses entirely. In addition, the regulation barring
internet providers from prioritizing their own content has also been eliminated.
Without the prohibition on these activities, internet providers must openly
disclose any examples of blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization. Whether
the actions are illegal or not will be based on whether the activity is anti-competitive.
In addition to
repealing the net neutrality regulations, the new FCC regulations also deny state
and local governments the power to pass their own laws regulating the broadband
How Wil Repealing Net Neutrality Affect
It is critical
to understand that the consumer will not notice an immediate difference in the
internet now that the FCC has voted to repeal the regulations. Before it can go
into effect, the repeal must be published in the Federal Register, which may
not happen until early in the coming year. Nonetheless, because the change will
take time, it is unlikely that the internet experience will change overnight.
Any changes to
be implemented are likely to happen over time as companies begin to change
business models and services. Although services like Netflix and Hulu will not
disappear overnight, advocates for net neutrality worry how the repeal may
impact the new, younger services. Jump-start companies may struggle to contract
with internet service providers and pay to have their content delivered. This
could fundamentally alter the future internet setup and the market as a whole.
It is important
to recognize that the repeal could change how customers are billed for the
services they use. Without net neutrality, internet providers are now legally
able to pursue similar offers more assertively.
What is Next?
internet providers will control internet traffic in anti-competitive ways, supporters
of net neutrality have pledged to continue the fight in court. When the repeal
is published in the Federal Register in early 2018, we can expect lawsuits to
Bianca Ybarra is a Staff Writer for
GetLegal.com. She is a graduate of the University of Houston Law Center and a
member of the State Bar of Texas.