In February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reclassified broadband as a Title ll communication service. Essentially, this means that Internet Service Providers are forced to treat all data from the internet the same way and that individuals are able to access all information equally, regardless of the source. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) cannot charge differently or discriminate based on content, platform, user, application, etc., and they cannot block, charge money for, or slow down specific websites or online content. In April 2017, when FCC chairman Ajit Pai was appointed, he proposed repealing these policies; on December 14, the FCC officially voted for the repeal of Net Neutrality. There will no longer be regulations on the businesses that connect consumers to the internet, which means large companies such as Facebook and Google can pay Internet Service Providers to provide faster and more reliable access to their websites, in turn leading to slower, less reliable access to their competitors’ websites. This could potentially lead to broadband providers selling the internet in bundles, such as requiring pay for access to Instagram or Facebook.
Without rules protecting the equality of internet speeds, ISPs can create two lanes of “traffic,” so to speak—a slow lane and a fast lane—exclusively for those companies and individuals who are willing to pay for it. This could be very destructive to small businesses who cannot afford to pay the fines needed and could leave them behind, with slower internet speeds compared to larger companies with the means to pay for faster speeds. Chairman Pai continues to remain firm that these worries are unfounded and that the law was originally passed to “achieve the longstanding goal of forcing the internet under the federal government’s control.”
The rules will be entered in the federal register within the next year, and lawsuits will likely ensue. A potential argument for a lawsuit is that there could be corruption and unfair advantages within larger companies. Over the next year, there will undoubtedly be many challenges to this repeal, and only time will tell what the internet’s future will hold.