The Federal Communications Commission's repeal of the net neutrality rules took effect today, leaving broadband providers in most states free to censor sites and slow down apps.
The repeal, dubbed the "Restoring Internet Freedom Order," which took effect today, also allows Comcast, AT&T and other broadband providers to charge companies like Netflix and Amazon higher fees for prioritized delivery.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who spearheaded the deregulatory move, says the repeal will improve broadband service. "Our goal is simple: better, faster, cheaper internet access for American consumers who are in control of their own online experience. And that's what the FCC's Restoring Internet Freedom Order will deliver," he writes in a new op-ed.
Pai also says that a different agency -- the Federal Trade Commission -- will "police internet service providers for anticompetitive acts and unfair or deceptive practices."
Despite the repeal, some internet service providers have said they will continue to follow net neutrality principles. “It’s business as usual on the internet today -- movies are streaming, e-commerce is thriving, and advocates are using the internet to make their voices heard," Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of the broadband industry group USTelecom, stated today. "These positive and profound benefits of a free and open internet -- among many others -- are here to stay."
But many advocates expect that sooner or later, broadband providers will act in ways that would have violated the former rules.
"Internet service providers spent millions of dollars lobbying the Federal Communications Commission to end net neutrality, and they are certainly going to expect a healthy return on that investment," the ACLU blogged last week. "While the ISPs are clearly focused on increasing their profits, here the ISPs are likely to be patient. Their wisest course of action will be to eliminate net neutrality like a slow drip over time in the hope that consumers won’t notice and will stop caring."
Net neutrality supporters, including the Silicon Valley group Internet Association, also say that even though the repeal took effect, they intend to continue fighting to restore the Obama-era rules. Twenty-three attorneys general, along with various technology associations, consumer watchdogs and companies including Mozilla, are currently suing to reinstate the former rules.
The Senate recently passed a resolution to restore the rules, but a companion bill in the House has only drawn 170 backers so far -- far short of the 218 supporters it would need to prevail.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a vocal supporter of the Obama-era rules, reiterated her criticism of the repeal. "This puts the @FCC on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public," she tweeted this morning. "So now it’s up to us to keep raising a ruckus until internet openness is the law of the land."
At the state level, Washington recently passed a comprehensive net neutrality law that prohibits broadband providers operating in the state from blocking or throttling traffic and from charging companies higher fees for prioritized delivery. Dozens of other states are considering similar measures.