If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the last six months, you’ve likely heard about the ongoing debate between big internet providers (AT&T, Verizon, Xfinity/Comcast, etc.) and net neutrality supporters, including some tech companies and internet pioneers, regarding the Obama-era net neutrality regulations that are being rolled back today.
So, what’s all the fuss about? And are we going to see any huge changes right away?
Net neutrality is simply the idea that all traffic on the internet is equal, whether you’re reading a recipe on a blog or streaming funny videos, meaning that providers can’t speed up or slow down certain content or provide different “packages” that favor one type of content over another. It was classified in 2015 as a utility, like a telephone network, to which everyone has equal access.
In December, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed net neutrality, which, according to cnet, stripped away its own authority to regulate broadband, and, instead, shifted that responsibility to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FCC argues that the former rules were “heavy-handed” and “a mistake,” and that they discourage providers from investing in new innovative technology (read: 5G) or expanding their current networks.
Net neutrality supporters say this model, which could “block, throttle, and just otherwise mess with the way you use the internet,” will affect small companies and startups without enough cash to pay for their content to show up in the “fast lane,” according to Popular Science. And, it will drastically affect the way Americans use the internet.
Both sides agree not much will change today, though, or at least nothing very noticeable. Most experts agree that average customers will eventually end up paying more for their internet service, and the type of services offered will slowly begin to evolve.
Lawsuits are still in the works at the federal level and in more than two dozen states, including California, New York, Connecticut and Maryland. These states are considering legislation to reinstate the old rules. Washington already signed this type of legislation into law. Governors in several other states, including New Jersey and Montana, have signed orders requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to adhere to net neutrality principles in their states, says cnet.