Net neutrality is the principle that internet providers treat all web traffic equally, and it’s pretty much how the internet has worked since its creation. But regulators, consumer advocates and internet companies were concerned about what broadband companies could do with their power as the pathway to the internet – blocking or slowing down apps that rival their own services, for example.
WHAT DID THE GOVERNMENT DO ABOUT IT?
The FCC in 2015 approved rules, on a party-line vote, that made sure cable and phone companies don’t manipulate traffic. With them in place, a provider such as Comcast can’t charge Netflix for a faster path to its customers or block it or slow it down.
The net-neutrality rules gave the FCC power to go after companies for business practices that weren’t explicitly banned as well. For example, the Obama FCC said that “zero rating” practices by AT&T violated net neutrality. The telecom giant exempted its own video app from cellphone data caps, which would save some consumers money, and said video rivals could pay for the same treatment. Under current chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC spiked the effort to go after AT&T, even before it began rolling out a plan to undo the net-neutrality rules entirely.
A federal appeals court upheld the rules in 2016 after broadband providers sued.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Although the FCC’s two Democrats said they will oppose the proposal, the repeal prevailed as Republicans dominate 3-2. The vote for net neutrality in 2015 was also along party lines, but Democrats dominated then.
In the long run, net-neutrality advocates say undoing these rules makes it harder for the government to crack down on internet providers who act against consumer interests and will harm innovation. Those who criticize the rules say undoing them is good for investment in broadband networks.
But advocates aren’t sitting still. Some groups plan lawsuits to challenge the FCC’s move, and Democrats – energized by public protests in support of net neutrality – think it might be a winning political issue for them in 2018 congressional elections.
Source: Associated Press