Understanding Net Neutrality

What is net neutrality and what does the repeal of it mean for you?

On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of the net neutrality rules went into effect.

The rules had prohibited internet providers from charging more for certain content, in addition to offering equal access to all web content.

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What does that mean for the average consumer in a world that is so dependent on the use of the Internet?

Here’s a look at the repeal of net neutrality and what it means to you. 

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is a plan that regulates how Internet service providers deal with their customers.

The regulatory plan was passed in 2015. It labeled broadband service a public utility, thus giving the FCC authority to regulate it. 

The regulations created in 2015 prevented Internet service providers from doing three things: curbing access to any lawful content; creating “fast lanes” for companies and individuals who would pay a premium price for faster connection speeds; or slowing down the transmission of any lawful content. 

Those three rules were repealed on a 3-2 vote in December. The repeal of those rules took effect Monday.

What does that mean for the average person’s use of the Internet?

Probably not much, at least right away. Proponents of the repeal say maybe not at all. 

Those against the repeal of the rules say it could mean a great deal to Internet users in the future. They argue service providers could adopt a payment model similar to the one cable and satellite companies have been using. It would involve consumers choosing a bundle package for services, maybe paying one price for a basic social media package that includes Twitter and Facebook, and paying more for, say, a streaming video package.

Those in favor of dropping the net neutrality rules, including the FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, said that idea is far-fetched, and that protecting the Internet user’s experience is what the Federal Trade Commission is now charged with doing.

In an op-ed published Monday, Pai said, “Transparency is also a critical part of our framework. In the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, the FCC strengthened its transparency rule so that internet service providers must make public more information about their network management practices. They are required to make this information available either on their own website or on the FCC's website. This information will allow consumers to make an informed decision about which internet service provider is best for them and give entrepreneurs the information they need as they develop new products and services. Our transparency rule will also help ensure that any problematic conduct by internet service providers is quickly identified and corrected.”

Who is arguing against the repeal?

Twenty-nine states legislatures have introduced more than 65 bills that would force internet service providers to ensure various parts of the 2015 net neutrality regulations. Oregon, Vermont  and Washington have passed net neutrality legislation.

Governors in HawaiiNew JerseyNew YorkMontanaRhode Island and Vermont have signed executive orders requiring internet service providers to adhere to the net neutrality regulations. In addition, the Senate passed a measure in favor of preserving the net neutrality rules in May. Senate Democrats have urged Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan to schedule a vote on the measure.

Twenty-two states have filed a lawsuit to stop the net neutrality repeal. 

FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 file photo, Demonstrators rally in support of net neutrality outside a Verizon store in New York. Consumers aren’t likely to see immediate changes following Monday, June 11, 2018 formal repeal of Obama-era internet rules that had ensured equal treatment for all. Rather, any changes are likely to happen slowly, and companies will try to make sure that consumers are on board with the moves, experts say. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

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