The Federal Communications Committee (FCC) was successful in repealing the net neutrality rules that the previous FCC leadership passed in 2015. However, Congress can still pass a law to simply reverse the repeal or even improve on the previous net neutrality rules.
Net Neutrality Rules Repealed
Back in February, FCC’s new chairman Ajit Pai, who is a former Verizon lawyer, issued a “Restoring Internet Freedom” order in the Federal Registry. That order has now gone into effect, which means the net neutrality rules have been canceled.
The objective of the net neutrality rules has been primarily to stop discrimination from internet service providers (ISPs) against both large and small websites based on the type of content they serve. This is how the term “net neutrality” was coined — the idea was that every bit is the same and that ISPs can’t charge differentiated prices based on different types of services.
Potential Outcomes Resulting From The Repeal
Without the net neutrality rules, and in the context of a non-competitive ISP market in the United States, many fear that the ISPs will start charging websites additional fees depending on the type of content they serve through the ISPs’ networks.
Furthermore, the ISPs could also throttle or even block competing services. Before the FCC passed the net neutrality rules in 2015, there were already reports that Verizon and Comcast were slowing down Netflix, YouTube, and other services. Netflix and Google ended up cutting a deal with the ISPs.
The major issue with this tactic is that ISP customers already pay to get the whole internet at a certain speed. The ISPs are essentially breaking that contract with the users when they start picking and choosing which services to deliver at normal speed.
Many also feared that without the net neutrality rules in place, the ISPs could start offering its customers “service packages,” which would splinter the internet. As a result, the internet could become more like the TV networks, where you pay for different packages of internet services.
FCC And ISPs Misled Congress
Besides the recent discovery that the FCC has made false statements to Congress about a DDoS attack against its public commenting system, the FCC and the ISPs have made some other misleading statements, too.
For instance, both the ISPs and the FCC have claimed that net neutrality has hurt investment. In reality, the ISPs’ investments have continued to grow in the two years of post-net neutrality rules. Comcast even claimed that its first quarter of 2017 was its best in five years.
Another misleading ISP claim is that they want to get rid of Title II, and not net neutrality rules in general. However, without Title II, the FCC was no longer able to regulate ISPs due to a lawsuit that Verizon brought against the FCC to revoke the 2010 basic net neutrality rules. Verizon won that case because the FCC didn’t have to power to regulate the ISPs under the Title I classification that the ISPs were regulated under before.
Congress Can Establish A Strong Net Neutrality Framework
When fighting against the 2015 net neutrality rules, the ISPs said almost in unison that they would prefer to leave net neutrality rules to Congress instead of the FCC. Chances are they were saying that to make it more likely that the FCC’s rules would be repealed, or so they could support a bill with much weaker regulations and perhaps even some benefits for the ISPs.
Ideally, Congress should be the one to pass a net neutrality law, just as other countries’ Parliaments and governments have done, including the European Union, Brazil, and India. This way, the internet rules wouldn’t change every few years when the two main parties get to appoint their own FCC chairman. Net neutrality could become a campaign issue during the mid-term elections this year, which means it may have a better shot at becoming law if the people demand it from the candidates that want their votes.
In the meantime, Congress can still reverse FCC’s net neutrality repeal order through the Congressional Review Act (CRA), the same power Congress used earlier this year to reverse the previous FCC chairman’s broadband privacy framework. The Senate has already voted to save net neutrality, but it’s now up to House representatives to vote the same way.