The Federal Communications Commission's 3-2 decision to scrap net neutrality — the idea that all legal internet traffic must be treated the same by internet service providers — takes effect Monday. Killing net neutrality is a victory for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who wrote the rules and pushed them through with the help of the other two Republican FCC commissioners, and for ISPs. Without net neutrality, critics warn, giant corporations like Verizon and Comcast can throttle traffic to sites they don't own or partner with, or give customers who pay more better connections to services like Netflix. The Senate passed a bill in May reinstating net neutrality, but the House is not expected to take it up.
The fight now moves to federal court, where some net neutrality proponents are suing to overturn Pai's decision on the grounds that it was arbitrary and without justification. Telecoms are mulling legal action against Oregon, Vermont, and Washington state, which have all passed laws preserving net neutrality at the state level; California lawmakers are pushing through a similar law, and six other governors have tried to enact net neutrality through executive orders.
Telecoms insist they have no current plans to throttle traffic to certain sites. "We're all going to wake up on Monday, and we're all going to be able to stream cool shows off Netflix or Hulu or YouTube," said Jonathan Spalter, the leader of the trade group USTelecom, speaking in the lingo of youth. Gene Kimmelman, the president of public interest group Public Knowledge, said the end of net neutrality and approval of AT&T's purchase of Time Warner — a judge is set to rule either way on Tuesday — "could be a one-two punch to consumers and online competition. ... The combination of no net neutrality and video consolidation creates new bottlenecks that empower the traditional media industry to raise prices and limit online competition." Peter Weber