Free And Open Internet Could Now Be A Thing Of The Past

by Valerie Williams
Image via Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The FCC voted to repeal Obama-era net neutrality laws protecting a free and open internet

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted today to repeal net neutrality laws, a move that will dismantle rules that currently stop internet service providers from being able to influence loading speeds for certain websites or apps. The Republican-majority FCC handed down the decision, which could ultimately reverse Obama-era regulations that protect a free and open internet.

The net neutrality rules were put in place in 2015 and they banned cable and internet providers from being able to block or slow the loading speeds of certain websites over others. It also stopped them from being able to prioritize sites that struck special deals with them. FCC chairman Ajit Pai, appointed earlier this year, made it a goal from the start to reverse net neutrality laws. Today’s vote, passing at 3-2, is the first step in accomplishing it.

Advocates of a free and open internet hope that Congress will halt the FCC’s ruling from taking effect under the Congressional Review Act. Without that action, the reversal of the current net neutrality laws will occur after a review by the Office of Management and Budget.

Some argue that before 2015, the internet was just fine and dandy with internet service providers keeping things as fair and open as they currently are. But that’s simply not true.

Pai was quoted saying, “the internet wasn’t broken in 2015. We weren’t living in a digital dystopia” while conveniently brushing aside past instances like those listed above where ISPs blocked certain content. Without net neutrality regulations in place, we can expect ISPs to do plenty worse in the way of preventing customers from seeing certain content or even charging more to access certain sites. These rules protected that from happening and now they’re in peril if Congress doesn’t put a stop to it.

Twitter is being very vocal about the potential pitfalls of net neutrality ending with everyone from Netflix to Bernie Sanders weighing in.

It’s important to note that net neutrality isn’t really a partisan issue — a recent survey by the University of Maryland found that 83 percent of Americans, across all parties, favor keeping current net neutrality laws intact. What happened today is literally three men deciding the future of the internet for millions of Americans. Nothing about it is fair or right.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, one of the two women who voted against repealing the current regulations, made closing remarks after the hearing today that are both chilling and hopeful. “What saddens me the most today is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is actually abandoning you,” she says. “But what I am pleased to be able to say today is that the fight to save net neutrality does not end today. The agency does not have the final word. Thank goodness for that.”