The end of net neutrality is here

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai pushed to overturn his agency's 2015 net neutrality protections

Joshua Roberts Reuters FCC Chairman Ajit Pai pushed to overturn his agency's 2015 net neutrality protections

The Republican-led Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the Obama-era regulations in December. Obama-era federal regulations prevented Internet providers from slowing, blocking or charging websites special fees to get their content in front of users.

But while ISPs think they've scored a major victory here by convincing Ajit Pai and the Trump FCC to ignore the public, ignore the experts, and cuddle up to telecom duopolies, this policy middle finger aimed squarely at consumers is likely to result in a policy and political backlash they're going to be navigating for years.

Internet providers could choose to prioritize their own content and services over those of rivals. That means it fell under "common carrier" rules established to protect equal access to the service.

Pai attempted to bolster the FCC's decision through claims that the new regulations introduces stronger transparency laws and hence more protection for the consumer.

In other words, certain providers could block or slow down sites like Facebook or your favorite news website. Last week, Senate Democrats urged House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, to bring the issue to a vote on the House floor.

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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.

"I am committed to protecting a free and open internet, while at the same time making sure there are reasonable standards to protect against unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive practices such as blocking and throttling".

Other states, including New York, Vermont, and Montana, are using executive orders and various other means of reinstating net neutrality, but at the moment, Washington is the only state to pass a bill protecting it. OR passed similiar legislation, but it won't go into effect until next year, as Motherboard reports.

Zero-rating programs weren't specifically barred under the now-defunct net neutrality protections.

But the FCC's outgoing rules already allowed broadband providers leeway to create special data channels for such services where the net-neutrality provisions wouldn't apply.

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OR also enacted a net neutrality law, signed in April and that goes into action in 2019, but it only restricts state agencies and other public bodies from contracting with network providers that don't meet non-discriminatory provisions.

The new rules approved by lawmakers who were heavily paid by the ISP lobbyists also take the oversight powers away from the more powerful and resourceful FCC to the Federal Trade Commission. We're also waiting to hear whether the Supreme Court will agree to hear a separate lawsuit on net neutrality.

What's the logic behind the new rules, exactly?

It is unlikely that ISPs and other internet companies will try anything drastic as the fight to undo the repeal is still ongoing, and critics are monitoring the situation closely. Oregon, Vermont and Washington state have adopted open-Internet laws, while governors in an additional six states have sought to address the matter through executive orders. And in its repeal decision, the FCC explicitly rejects the idea that it has much authority to regulate Internet providers at all.

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