The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially announced plans today to repeal net neutrality rules that were enacted by President Barack Obama. FCC Chairman Ajit V.Pai has been instrumental in the decision to abolish these existing Internet guidelines, despite opposition from numerous activist groups such as Battle for Net Neutrality.
Net Neutrality: A Brief Overview
The phrase “net neutrality” encompasses the core premise that no Internet service provider (ISP) or government agency should be able to charge users a premium for accessing certain websites or data. Additionally, net neutrality guidelines prevent the usage of discrimination to block people from reaching websites via certain devices.
In other words, your ISP can’t currently decide to charge you an extra fee for going to a popular site, nor can they opt to bottleneck the speed of your service when you use your tablet instead of your laptop. Perhaps the most famous example of data throttling happened a decade ago when Comcast was discovered purposefully slowing down traffic to BitTorrent. At that time, the FCC stepped in and demanded Comcast stop data throttling its customers, regardless of the legality of the data they were downloading.
How the Proposed Net Neutrality Repeal Could Impact You
If Ajit V. Pai and the Federal Communications Commission repeal net neutrality guidelines, Internet users could soon find themselves paying heftier fees to visit popular sites. Failure to pay these fees could result in dramatically reduced browsing speeds or even a complete blockage.
Why Does Ajit V. Pai Support a Repeal?
Ajit V. Pai has been a member of the FCC since 2012. On January 23, 2017, President Donald J. Trump promoted Pai to the position of FCC Chairman. Pai’s term will keep him in that role through at least 2022. Since 2015, Pai has been very outspoken about his opposition to net neutrality, even going so far as to call it a danger to the First Amendment.
More recently, Pai has taken the position that net neutrality is harmful because it reduces competition. He’s also opined that enforcing net neutrality removes each ISP’s incentive to continue expanding into smaller markets and developing new broadband technology.
What’s the Biggest Argument for Net Neutrality?
Aside from the basic concept of giving people open, unencumbered access to data, some fear that getting rid of net neutrality would allow ISPs to have way too much control over their competitors. For example, Time Warner owns 10 percent of Hulu. If net neutrality is overturned, they could conceivably attempt to alter the market by purposefully slowing down all traffic to Netflix and other online content providers. At the same time, they could speed up traffic to Hulu, thereby giving their own streaming service an unfair advantage.
What Happens Next?
Approximately 22 million people commented against the FCC’s plans, but that didn’t prevent Pai from scheduling a vote on December 15 to potentially dismantle net neutrality. If Ajit V. Pai and the Federal Communications Commission vote yes next month, it will open the door for ISPs to start legally charging inconsistent rates and altering traffic speeds on a whim.
[Image by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Images]