The internet as you know it could now change at any moment according to most reports. The Net Neutrality rules that were put into place in 2015 have officially been repealed, a move that numerous groups, users, politicians, and even Jon Oliver looked at as the end of the free, open internet we’ve known for years. According to Buzzfeed News, there was a glimmer of hope last month when the Senate voted to stop the repeal, but that hope was stopped down by Paul Ryan and the Republicans in the House thanks to the lack of a vote on the issue. The end of the 2015 rules shouldn’t change things immediately, but that doesn’t mean they’ll remain untouched forever:
“Cable and phone companies won’t start misbehaving right away, because they know they’re being watched,” Evan Greer, deputy director of the digital rights group Fight for the Future, said in a statement. “But over time, unless net neutrality is restored, the Internet as we know it will wither and die.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wrote an opinion piece for CNet over the weekend to once again support the December to repeal the rules, saying that consumers will be better protected under the rules his FCC is about to enact:
Our approach includes strong consumer protections. For example, we empower the Federal Trade Commission to police internet service providers for anticompetitive acts and unfair or deceptive practices. In 2015, the FCC stripped the FTC — the nation’s premier consumer protection agency — of its authority over internet service providers. This was a loss for consumers and a mistake we have reversed. Starting Monday, the FTC will once again be able to protect Americans consistently across the internet economy, and the FCC will work hand-in-hand with our partners at the FTC to do just that.
Pai also talked up the FTC’s role, and the purpose of disclosures by businesses of their practice will stop any underhanded actions.
As Ars Technica points out, there is no guarantee that these disclosures would ever lead to any actual punishment. And there were some on the FCC that did not agree with Pai’s point of view. Democrat FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel released a statement after the repeal went into effect, giving these doubts about Pai’s plan some weight:
Internet service providers now have the power to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content. They will have the right to discriminate and favor the Internet traffic of those companies with whom they have pay-for-play arrangements and the right to consign all others to a slow and bumpy road. Plain and simple, thanks to the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality, Internet providers have the legal green light, the technical ability, and business incentive to discriminate and manipulate what we see, read, and learn online.