Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to end net neutrality.
Net neutrality refers to regulations on how Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide online services to Americans. Now, without it, ISPs can decide what content their customers can access and set fees based on the services consumers use.
The FCC vote reversed a 2015 decision that provided protections for American consumers by requiring ISPs to provide equal access to all information on the Internet. The 3-2 decision, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, was split along party lines, with the Republicans on the Commission voting to dismantle consumer protections, while the two Democrats preferring to retain the regulations.
Despite the FCC’s vote, support for net neutrality is nonpartisan. A recent poll from the Program for Public Consultation and Voice of the People at the University of Maryland showed that the vast majority of Americans, including Republicans, want to protect net neutrality. Their data shows that 83% of all Americans and 75% of Republicans support regulating the ISPs.
How Will Things Change with the End of Net Neutrality?
In the wake of the FCC ruling, companies that provide Internet access now are free to change their business models, providing different tiers of service based on the kinds of content customers access or the websites they visit.
Many analysts predict that with the end of net neutrality, providers will begin charging customers more for access to certain forms of content, such as streaming video and music.
Others suggest that in this newly-deregulated climate, companies may restrict access to unpopular political sites or other material. ISPs could throttle connection speeds if customers use too much bandwidth (you might not be able to binge Netflix shows, for example). And some models suggest that consumers may soon have to pay premiums to access their favorite social media sites.
Small businesses, especially those engaging in e-commerce or providing entertainment like videos or music, might feel the pinch quickly. ISPs will be free to prioritize content for a fee, meaning large corporations with deep pockets will get to move to the front of the line. This could freeze out small companies that cannot pay extra.
There’s Still Hope!
Despite today’s vote, all’s not lost. There are still a few things that may restore net neutrality.
First, there are pending lawsuits contending that the FCC acted improperly by dismissing millions of comments in support of net neutrality. In one case, Jason Prechtel filed a suit to discover how many of the comments to the agency were legitimate.
Next, several states have already come out in support of net neutrality and vow to continue these regulations. For example, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington promised that a version of net neutrality will continue in his state.
Some in Congress are considering new legislation in support of net neutrality. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) recently said, “So many of us in Congress already agree on many of the principles of net neutrality… if Republicans and Democrats have the political support to work together on such a compromise, we can enact a regulatory framework that will stand the test of time.”
What Can YOU Do to Save Net Neutrality?
We can’t count on lawsuits or governors to do the right thing. All Americans need to join together to put pressure on Congress to reverse the FCC vote.
Internet advocacy groups such as Fight for the Future are calling on Congress to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to nullify the FCC action. To make this happen, all Americans must contact their Senators and Representatives and urge them to support net neutrality and use the CRA.
However, we must act quickly. There is just a 60-day window in which the CRA can be activated.
Take Action TODAY!
It’s not too late to save net neutrality. Contact your Representatives and Senators NOW and demand that they use the CRA to stop the FCC’s ruling.
What are you waiting for? Go to Battle For the Net and let Congress know you want net neutrality restored!
If you’d like to learn more about net neutrality and why it matters: