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Net neutrality regulations end

Today marks the end of the road for Title II regulations, aka net neutrality, as the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of the rules takes effect. A congressional effort to revive the rules, under which internet service providers were required to provide equal access to all content without throttling, blocking or offering paid priority based on the service or content, passed the Senate but has not been taken up by the House, so the repeal proceeds — although there are still state attorneys general fighting the repeal in the courts as well as some states putting their own net neutrality rules in place. Even if the reinstatement of net neutrality were to pass the House, which is viewed as unlikely, it is even more unlikely that President Donald Trump would sign such legislation. The FCC’s repeal also prevented similar rules from being passed in the future.

The FCC released a statement standing by its repeal and emphasizing that the “internet wasn’t broken” in 2015 when the rules were passed, framing the repeal as a return to the “light-touch approach” that was in place as the Internet first formed and grew, with some enhanced rules on disclosure requirements for service providers — so if customers’ terms of service do change, it must be disclosed.

“This will discourage harmful practices and help regulators target any problematic conduct,” the FCC said, adding that scrutiny of ISP’s behavior, including anti-competitive behavior, will fall under the purview of the Federal Trade Commission. “The Federal Trade Commission will police and take action against Internet service providers for anticompetitive acts or unfair and deceptive practices,” the FCC said.

 

Advocates of net neutrality were not reassured, and many vowed to keep pressing forward with efforts to reinstate the rules.

Virtual private network operators are among the stakeholders concerned about their services being blocked or throttled by ISPs, and ExpressVPN released information from a recent online survey conducted on behalf of the company by Propeller Insights. Of 1,000 U.S. adults surveyed in April, around three-quarters reported significant concerns about their ISPs’ potential reactions to the end of net neutrality rules — that content or websites would be blocked or certain types of data slowed down, or that they would be asked to pay more to access some websites or applications and that companies who pay-to-play would be prioritized.

Meanwhile, there have been a few calls for new legislation — including by carriers such as AT&T — that would put some type of consensus rules in place on treating internet content equally without necessarily treating ISPs as telecommunications service providers.

“The Chicken Littles claiming ‘the end of the Internet’ will now be proved wrong,” said Doug Brake, director of broadband and spectrum policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a tech think tank which recently put together a report on possible compromise legislation.  “However, there is still much to be done to achieve a stable, lasting legal framework that gives everyone in the Internet ecosystem confidence to invest in and use this crucial technology. Now is the time for policymakers to work toward bipartisan compromise legislation that will stand the test of time.”

 

 

ABOUT AUTHOR

Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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