Yesterday, FCC chair Ajit Pai released a proposal to repeal Obama-era net neutrality regulations. The repeal is expected to come to a vote on Dec. 14th, and Pai’s proposal is comfortably positioned for approval. If approved, the proposal would release internet service providers from government sanctioned regulations.
So what does all that mean, anyway?
In a nutshell, net neutrality rules put into place by the Obama administration in 2015 declare broadband internet service as a public utility. In other words: high speed internet should be available to everyone. Net neutrality regulations limit the ability of internet service providers (think AT&T, Verizon, etc,) to control the market through pricing and service speed leveling.
The FCC’s proposal is set to remove net neutrality regulations, placing the power back in the hands of the ISPs. This means that ISPs would have control over pricing, access, and speed. Essentially, abolishing net neutrality would allow ISPs to decide who gets internet access, how much access they get, and how quickly they get it. It’s problematic, because internet access equals information access, and deregulating the industry could effectively serve as telecom-controlled siphon for information and entertainment.
So who cares, and why?
ISP’s care: they say removing net neutrality rules would allow them to offer customers a broader range of services.
Google and Amazon and Facebook (and other giants like Netflix) care, too, because de-regulating internet services could mean that ISPs will gain too much control over access to information, and that they’ll be able to implement a “pay-to-play” strategy, forcing companies to shell out big cash if they want to stay in the game.
Small business owners care, because if ISP’s can control internet access through pricing and speed structures, start-ups and small businesses stand to get priced out of the competitive market. In short, the little guys may not be able to throw down with the big guys anymore, thereby squashing their chance of ever becoming the big guy.
And you probably care, too. Because even if you’re not an ISP or an internet supergiant, or a business owner of any kind, you are a consumer. And bombing net neutrality rules could have the potential to affect your day to day life, too: deregulation could mean that you might end up with internet service that doesn’t support your Netflix habits. Netflix!! That’s kind of a big deal.
Regardless of where you stand on net neutrality, it’s an issue worth keeping an eye on, because we’ve all got skin in the game.