The net neutrality of the Obama era passed in 2015 is pretty dead.
As of Monday, some of the proposals will come into effect regarding Republican-led FCC surveillance of the Internet, known as "Restoring Internet Freedom." to step. Since this is Washington DC and nothing is so easy, key elements of the proposal, including changes to net neutrality, will only take effect after a vote by the Office for Management and Budget.
The OMB could not comment on the vote. But rest assured, this is just a procedural step. The rules of net neutrality as we know it will no longer be.
Although many people agree with the basic principles of net neutrality, these specific rules have been a lightning bolt for controversy. The reason for this was that an FCC formerly led by the Democrat had reclassified broadband networks to the same strict rules as the telephone networks.
Chairman Ajit Pai has labeled the Obama era rules as "cumbersome" and "a mistake," arguing that they are hindering innovation and slowing investment in broadband deployment and development. To fix things, he says he brings the FCC back to a "light touch" approach.
But supporters of net neutrality, like big tech companies like Google and Facebook, as well as consumer groups and pioneers of The Internet like the founder of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, says that the Internet, as we know it, without this protection could not exist.
"We need a referee on the field who can throw a flag," former FCC chairman and Obama representative Tom Wheeler said at MIT last week during a panel discussion in support of rules such as those he championed , Wheeler was chairman when the rules were passed three years ago.
If you still do not feel that you understand what the hustle and bustle is about, do not be afraid. We have put together this FAQ to bring everything into English.
What is net neutrality again?
Net neutrality is the principle that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally, whether you post Facebook or post pictures on Instagram or streaming movies from Netflix or Amazon. It also means that companies like AT & T, who are trying to buy Time Warner, or Comcast, which owns NBC Universal, can not favor their own content over a competitor.
What happened just now?
The FCC, led by Ajit Pai, voted on 14 December to lift the 2015 Network Neutrality Ordinance, which prohibits broadband providers from blocking or slowing traffic, and banned them from doing so, so-called "fast lanes" for paid businesses offer.
The order is due to come into force on Monday after the Commission published the definitive notice of termination in the Federal Register (which began 60 days before the rules were lifted). But only parts of the job are effective today – key parts continue to require OMB approval as part of the revised data collection requirement. The FCC will issue another order to make it official when the OMB gives the green light.
The most significant change resulting from the removal of the rules is the abolition of the FCC's power to regulate broadband coverage and its relocation to the Federal Trade Commission. Under the 2015 rules, the FCC classified broadband as a utility that gave it the power to regulate broadband infrastructure in the same way as the old telephone network.
Does this mean that nobody will monitor the internet?
No. The Federal Trade Commission is the new policeman in tact. It may be against companies that breach contracts with consumers or participate in anti-competitive and fraudulent activities.
So what's the big deal? Is the FTC able to ensure that broadband companies do not harm consumers?
The FTC already monitors consumer protection and competition for the entire economy. But that also means that the agency is flooded. And because the FTC does not focus exclusively on the telecommunications sector, it is unlikely that the agency will be able to carry out the same type of audit as the FCC
. More importantly, the FTC also lacks the regulatory power of the FCC. This means that enforcement of the FTC is limited only to voluntary public undertakings by companies or antitrust violations. Unless broadband and mobile operators agree in writing to adhere to fundamental principles of net neutrality, the FTC can only enforce antitrust issues that must meet high legal standards.
Any action taken by the FTC will also take place after the fact. And the investigation of misconduct can take years.
What about Internet highways? Can broadband providers prioritize traffic?
The removal of FCC's net neutrality provisions removes the ban on binding service providers such as Netflix or YouTube to providing their services faster than their competitors to an Internet service provider. Net neutrality advocates argue that this is particularly harmful to start-ups who can not afford such fees.
But Pai said the prohibition of paid priority was too restrictive. He wanted to ensure that broadband companies can experiment with different business models, such as: For example, offering zero-rated offerings that allow businesses to give away content for free without being charged against a customer's monthly data cap. Another possible business model would prioritize a broadband provider to a medical application or services such as those that enable self-driving cars.
Were any of the old rules maintained?
The only rule that has been spared is the so-called "transparency rule," which dictates how broadband providers manage their networks. The FCC now demands that service providers commit to publishing when and under what circumstances they will block or slow traffic and disclose if and when they offer paid priority services.
What does that mean for me?
That's a big change in FCC policy and it could affect how you experience the Internet. Remember, your experience is unlikely to change immediately, so you probably have not noticed anything else than you signed up today.
But over time, that could change significantly. Whether you believe the change will be good or bad depends on who you believe.
Pai and many other Republicans say the release of broadband providers from burdensome and outdated regulations makes them invest more in their networks. They hope that this will lead to more expansion in rural and hard-to-reach areas of the country as well as faster service throughout the US. The argument of the Agency for the abolition of the rules is that the investments fell after the adoption of the rules in 2015.
But Democrats like Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, consumer advocates, civil rights organizations, and technology companies like Google and Mozilla say the lifting of the 2015 rules and disempowering the FCC will cause broadband companies to control more of their Internet experience.
With companies like AT & T, Verizon, and Comcast buying more online content, such as video, they could prioritize their own services – networks that squeeze out and restrict competitors to what you can access. This could mean fewer startups get a chance to become the next Facebook, Netflix or YouTube. Ultimately, it could make your Internet experience look more like cable TV, where all content is compiled by your provider.
Some critics also fear that this control could lead to higher prices. And groups like the American Civil Liberties Union say that this could affect the right to freedom of expression, as large companies control more of what one experiences online.
"Internet rights are civil rights," said Jay Stanley, an ACLU senior policy analyst. "Net neutrality will have a devastating impact on free speech on the Internet, and without it, gateway companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT & T will have too much power to handle the free flow of information."
Net neutrality supporters have filed lawsuits to reintroduce the old rules. Several technology companies, including Vimeo, Mozilla, Kickstarter, Foursquare and Etsy, as well as several prosecutors have filed lawsuits against the FCC to maintain the rules of net neutrality.
They argue that the FCC changed the classification of broadband networks and getting rid of the rules violates the Administrative Procedure Act because it is "arbitrary and moody".
States also take matters into their own hands. More than two dozen states, including California, New York, Connecticut and Maryland, are considering legislation to restore net neutrality within their borders. Earlier this year, Washington became the first state to enact such legislation. Governors in several states, including New Jersey and Montana, have signed executive orders requiring ISPs doing business with the state to adhere to net neutrality principles.
Will the Congress Take Action?
Congress could still write laws protecting an open internet. But some advocates of net neutrality are not convinced that the Republican-led legislature will protect the basic principles of net neutrality.
For example, Ms Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee and Chair of the House Communication and Technology Subcommittee, has proposed a law banning Internet Service Providers from blocking and throttling content, but does not address ISPs' ability to make quick progress can traffic for sites that are willing to pay. At last week's network prioritization hearing, Blackburn argued why broadband providers should offer priority services. She praised paid priority on the internet for signing up for the TSA precheck at the airport.
Here's what she said in her opening remarks at a subcommittee on paid priorities: "In real life, all kinds of interactions are prioritized every day." What about TSA pre-checks? "It might have saved you time while you were traveled here today. "
Of course, the Internet is not really like a security line at the airport. The people paying the fee for faster access are not consumers, but companies offering services on the Internet. And if they can not afford the fees, their services will probably slip off the rails and never arrive at the consumers. The result will be less innovative services for customers.
If consumers want faster access to the Internet, they can already pay for it by buying a faster service that ensures that all their services are delivered faster.
In any case, with proposals such as Blackburn on the table in a Republican-controlled congress, net neutrality advocates and Democrats supporting the net neutrality of the FCC in 2015 are not confident that true safeguards will come from Congress.
Could a Democrat-controlled new FCC have reversed a course?
Yes, if the Democrats take control of the White House in 2020, an FCC led by the Democrat could reverse the reverse path and reintroduce the rules. They had to go through the same rule creation process as the last time. But everyone agrees that this ping-ponging between rules and rules is not good for someone. For that reason, people on both sides of the problem would want to see a lasting solution to the Congress.
What can I do now?
Net neutrality supporters say the fight is not over yet. They call on those who are interested in the topic to address their representatives in Congress to press for a vote on the CRA resolution, which should be held within the month. And they say they want to persuade the state legislature to pass their own network neutralization measures. And, finally, they say that when it comes to restoring net neutrality, vote in the inter-congressional elections and in the state and local elections for like-minded candidates.
Correction 11:33 am: The story has been corrected to note that key elements of the Net Neutrality Order will not come into force until the Office of Management and Budget approves it ,
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