Net neutrality could become extinct under Donald Trump. A glimpse of this appeared on Friday when the Senate failed to reconfirm Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. This sets the stage for new leadership at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).Image: Flickr
Trump against net neutrality
Chairman Tom Wheeler is the current head of the FCC, and whenever he chooses to step down, Republicans will hold a majority. It is believed that their first order of business will be to reverse the historic net neutrality rules that took effect in 2015, notes Recode.
The FCC regulates radio and television broadcast, cable, wireless carriers, and internet infrastructure. The federal network neutrality policy passed under Chairman Wheeler restricts internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon from charging a fee to websites like Netflix and Facebook to reach internet users at faster speeds.
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With Rosenworcel and Chairman Wheeler expected to leave the agency in January, the stage is set for a 2-1 Republican majority at the FCC next year, notes Recode. President-elect Trump strongly opposes net neutrality, and he is geared to pick new leadership that will reverse all the rules.
Republican majority at FCC
Of the five commissioners leading the FCC, three typically represent the party of the president in office. The FCC will have four commissioners on staff without Rosenworcel, but that is expected to change in January when Trump takes office and probably appoints a new chairman of the agency.
Usually, the chairman leaves when a new president is elected, but he doesn’t necessarily have to. Wheeler may stay on the commission and carry out the rest of his term as a commissioner under the new chairman’s leadership, notes Recode.
Wheeler’s term will not expire until 2018, leaving the commission split even on party lines until Trump nominates a new commissioner to replace Rosenworcel.
Net neutrality very important for small players
In the absence of net neutrality, internet providers will be able to create a two-way toll. Subscribers will continue to pay to access the internet, and websites will also be required to pay for prioritized access to reach their users. This will be problematic for smaller, new online businesses, as they won’t be able to afford to reach users at faster speeds. Hence, they will be relegated to the slow lane and won’t be able to compete with established sites.
Previously, many popular names, including Netflix, Google and Twitter, openly supported the FCC’s move to instate network neutrality rules. It will be interesting to see what they do now.