The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has now released the full text of its proposal which includes the repeal of net neutrality. The so-called “Proposal to Restore Internet Freedom” seems to be moving in the opposite direction, at least where consumers are concerned. Early analysis of the net neutrality repeal suggests that American Internet users are unimportant while Internet service providers get free rein to do almost anything they want as far as traffic goes.
In short, service may get worse and more expensive.
FCC announces net neutrality repeal
The concept of net neutrality basically means that all Internet traffic is treated equally. No companies are allowed to pay more so that their traffic gets easier passage, and Internet service providers are not allowed to discriminate against certain types of content.
The FCC announced its plan for the net neutrality repeal on Tuesday and said it would release the full text of its Proposal to Restore Internet Freedom, which it now has. Experts and well-known people who work in the media industry are beginning to comment on it, and the commentary is generally not positive.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed the net neutrality repeal, which paves the way for Internet service providers to begin throttling service or prioritize some types of content over others. Internet service providers can boost their revenues by charging for fast-lane access. For example, Netflix paid Comcast for such fast-lane access years ago, although it has been an outspoken advocate of net neutrality for several years. The company’s actions appeared to have contradict its official statements, however, leaving the whole situation murky.
What the proposed rules say
The new rules allow Internet service providers to throttle or slow down certain content, such as traffic to Netflix, YouTube or any other website or online service. They can also speed up content, potentially meaning better service for certain services and poor service for others. ISPs can even block access. The key requirement here is that ISPs must tell customers what they’re doing.
The proposal is more than 200 pages in length, so if you’re having trouble sleeping one night, you can check it out here. Officials will vote on the net neutrality repeal on December 14, and it’s widely expected to pass, according to The New York Times.
Who wins and loses in the net neutrality repeal
The release of the proposal draft and net neutrality repeal kicked off a storm of controversy throughout the media and tech industry. Essentially, free speech is colliding with Internet control, and consumers are likely to be collateral damage in the war between Internet service providers and technology and media firms. Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and other Internet service providers are on one side while Google, Amazon and other tech giants are on the other.
Just about the only thing consumers might get out of the deal is transparency—at least in an ideal situation in which companies are upfront with their policies (which not all of them are all the time). While it’s true that ISPs might provide smoother service for users of certain online content, it could also mean that companies will raise their prices. For example, if Netflix or YouTube TV shells out big bucks to Comcast and Verizon for fast-lane access, they will probably want to take some or all of that out of subscribers’ pockets.
Will innovation be stifled or boosted? There’s disagreement
Meanwhile, the net neutrality repeal will make it more difficult for Internet-based services to get started because they won’t have the cash to pay for access to the Internet fast lane. Allowing ISPs to discriminate on traffic seems quite anti-competitive because it will make it more difficult for consumers to find new services, or they might decide that they would rather have more seamless access to content, thus giving new digital services little chance of finding success.
ISPs are the big winners in the net neutrality repeal because they can charge more for Internet fast lanes, and it’s one less regulatory issue to deal with. According to The New York Times, FCC Chair Pai has argued that net neutrality rules has stifled consumer choice and innovation, interestingly enough. FCC officials told the NYT that blocking and slowing some Internet content would be ruled as anti-competitive and that the Federal Trade Commission or Department of Justice would be policing such issues.
However, it’s difficult to see how speeding up some content doesn’t basically cause other content to be slowed because all traffic is not being treated as equal. It sounds rather like semantics, in a way, so it seems questionable whether consumers can expect any protection at all when it comes to Internet content. It will probably take quite some time before the full effects of the net neutrality appeal are realized.