net neutrality
Net Neutrality

Is this finally the end of, the end of net neutrality? I am not saying that to be tongue-in-cheek, but it is a confusing thing, isn’t it? Net neutrality was introduced to ensure that ISP’s couldn’t charge consumers more for the use of the internet. Then the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ended net neutrality. Meaning, ISP’s could charge consumers more for using the internet. And now, House Democrats will introduce a bill to reinstate the original rules that were put in place. Are you still with me on this one? The House Democrats are trying to bring back the net neutrality rules that we have been using for a number of years.

The bill that will be introduced is known as the “Save the Internet Act”, and will be introduced on Wednesday morning. What we don’t know is what is exactly in that bill. What we surmise is that the bill will seek to reestablish internet access as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act, which is the key designation that the Republican-led FCC voted to abandon in late 2017. The change to Title II classification gave the FCC the authority in 2015 to protect online businesses and consumers against any unreasonable practices of broadband providers.

The 2015 order also outlined some practices that were previously thought to be unreasonable, including the ability of broadband providers to selectively block or throttle websites and services. It also banned systems of paid prioritization, in which ISPs are allowed to choose which services are the quickest to access for consumers, charging companies additional fees for this privilege.

In December 2017, it was these protections that were repealed by the FCC. To clarify, the FCC’s three GOP commissioners, led by Chairman Ajit Pai voted to repeal those provisions. Interestingly enough, this vote was, in essence, a decision by Republicans to diminish their own agency’s authority to protect consumers. Their claim was that the oversight was hindering industry innovation.

A group of 22 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia asked the appeals court to reinstate the Obama-era internet rules and to block the FCC’s effort to pre-empt states from imposing their own rules guaranteeing an open internet. In October, California agreed not to enforce its own state net neutrality law until the appeals court’s decision on the 2017 repeal, and any potential review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

What’s interesting is that major ISP’s said they have not made any changes to how Americans access the internet since the repeal. Why do I say that’s interesting? To start, it says that they’re not sure that these rules will stick. It’s not in their best interest to introduce a whole new pricing system or scheme until they know exactly what they can or can’t do. Another point I’ll make to that is if it’s not broken, then why fix it? Without having definitive direction by way of a regulation, why put something new in place that might not be any better? I don’t know about you, but I for one am looking forward to this bill being introduced this week. I hope that things go back to the way they were, but regardless Nancy Pelosi isn’t backing down on this one and that makes it even more exciting.