The fight for net neutrality may be coming to an end as the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) announced earlier today that they would be voting on repealing the existing regulations within a month.
Net neutrality is the notion that the Internet is a common good and therefore Internet service providers should be subject to governmental regulation. Similar regulations already apply to many other common goods, such as telecommunications services.
The United States adopted net neutrality regulations in 2015 under the Obama administration. Since Trump took the White House, however, net neutrality has been a subject of much debate.
Proponents of net neutrality fear that if unregulated Internet service providers (ISP’s) will throttle speeds and control what content Internet users have access to. Furthermore, they worry that ISP’s will start charging online businesses a premium for high bandwidth content, such as video streaming. Therefore, many tech giants including Amazon and Netflix stand firmly behind the net neutrality regulations.
Conversely, the opponents of net neutrality hold that the overregulation of ISP’s negatively impacts the development of Internet infrastructure by limiting profitability. Furthermore, they feel that the fears expressed by proponents of regulation are unfounded as the Internet economy thrived prior to net neutrality.
While these arguments have some weight, it is important to note that under net neutrality ISP’s have continued to grow and remained incredibly profitable.
One of the most outspoken opponents of net neutrality is the current F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai. Mr. Pai began expressing his desire to repeal net neutrality in April, shortly after being appointed to his current position.
“For almost twenty years, the Internet thrived under the light-touch regulatory approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress,” said Mr. Pai in a statement released with the announcement of the upcoming vote. “[The implementation of net neutrality] was a mistake. It’s depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation.”
However, not everyone in the F.C.C. is as thrilled about today’s announcement. “This is ridiculous and offensive to the millions of Americans who use the Internet every day,” said F.C.C. commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel of the planned deregulations. “Our Internet economy is the envy of the world because it is open to all. This proposal tears at the foundation of that openness.”
Ms. Rosenworcel and many others are calling for a public hearing on the matter before the F.C.C. vote on December 14th. “We should go directly to the American public to find out what they think about this proposal before any vote is taken to harm net neutrality,” she said in a statement.
The full details of what regulations are being targeted for repeal are to be released tomorrow.
If you would like to make your voice heard on this issue there is still time to act. Fight for the Future, a nonprofit that seeks to expand the Internet’s potential for good, is leading the Battle for the Net campaign that simplifies the process of letting your representatives know you stand in favor of net neutrality.