New Internet rule enables ISPs to make more revenue in US

BackyardProduction  Getty Images

BackyardProduction Getty Images

The bill, passed with broad bipartisan support in February and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in March, had a provision to kick into effect the moment the FCC finalized its order to eliminate the requirement for neutral Internet service, which occurred today. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has little reason to celebrate as critics are closely monitoring ISPs and other internet companies to see if they pull any stunts and abuse the laws for corporate benefits. That means there is nothing legally stopping a broadband provider from selling faster service at a premium or slowing some content. For example, an ISP could charge a base fee for basic internet, and $5 extra for a social media package that includes Facebook and Twitter, or a $10 entertainment package that bundles in streaming music as well.

"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".

As of today, the end of net neutrality is official. Most major internet providers have publicly pledged not to cherry-pick consumer content, though activists say without enforcement those are largely empty promises. He insisted during an interview Monday on "CBS This Morning" that "consumers are going to be protected".

The FCC said it had repealed the rules because they restrained broadband providers like Verizon and Comcast from experimenting with new business models and investing in new technology. After control of the the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) changed hands following the 2016 election, the agency's new chairman, Ajit Pai, started dismantling net neutrality regulations, arguing they were overly restrictive. But unlike with the issues of blocking or slowing access to internet services, they've been much less definitive on fast lanes. Some say that consumers may not notice any changes at all.

E-commerce startups have feared that they could end up on the losing end of paid prioritization, with their websites and services loading more slowly than those run by internet behemoths.

Washington and OR now have their own net neutrality laws, and a bill is pending in California's legislature.

Still, several of these measures have failed, some are still pending, and not every state has taken such actions. The longer-term ramifications of a world without net neutrality is what concerns proponents of a fair and open internet - issues like a threat to free flow of information and a hazard to speech rights. Network investment topped $1.5 trillion. In January, attorneys general in 22 states and the District of Columbia filed a protective petition for review of the order. So it's not far-fetched to think a company like Comcast could throttle Netflix (or other innovative content providers) and make it impossible to watch a movie or other content without constant buffering.

Perhaps the repeal won't change the direction of the internet. Siding with AT&T might clear the way for more consolidation, while siding with the government could cause telecom giants to think twice about buying companies in new lines of business.

Two states, OR and Washington, have passed net neutrality laws and 29 states are considering legislation, which could lead to new legal battles over Internet laws.

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