Current Status of Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISP) and the government should treat all web-related traffic equally regardless of the source. If there was no net neutrality, companies would have the ability to purchase priority access to the ISP customers. Larger and wealthier companies (e.g., Google) would be able to pay the ISPs to provide customers more reliable access to their websites instead of to competitors’ websites. This would negatively impact any new start-up service that would not be able to purchase a priority access.

On February 26, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to enact the “strongest net neutrality rules in history.”  Millions of Americans contacted the FCC, called their Congress members, and wrote to the White House to express their support.  Although, this decision was a bold move in favor of net neutrality, but more changes may be coming soon. This 2015 Rule meant that ISPs cannot block access to any websites and they cannot interfere with website loading speeds. This rule also banned paid prioritization, which means that ISPs are not able to give preferential treatment to websites that pay an additional fee.

On January 23, 2017, President Trump selected Ajit Pai to lead the FCC as the new Chairman. This Chairman has a record of previously promising to undo the 2015 landmark decision. Then on May 18, 2017, the FCC, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, voted to propose a review of the 2015 rules.  Mr. Pai holds the opinion that the 2015 FCC rules are a “bureaucratic straitjacket” on the ISPs.  The new FCC proposal, which is called “Restoring Internet Freedom” contemplates whether to undo the legal approach that enforced those rules and whether there was anything that warranted the rules in the first place.

Beginning on May 18, 2017, the FCC is allowing a 90-day period to collect comments from stakeholders and the general public.  After that 90-day period, the FCC will then begin to draft a specific order that they will later vote on to decide if they sign it into law.  In 2015, when the FCC was drafting the previous order, they received over 4 million comments.  Most of those who were contacting the FCC were in support of the strict regulations on the ISPs.

Groups that are representing the cable and telecom agencies have already started to express support for Ajit Pai’s push to repeal the 2015 regulations. These groups state that they are in support of an open Internet. The Internet Association includes major web companies, such as Amazon and Netflix, have stated that they oppose changes to the 2015 regulations on net neutrality.  On July 12, 2017, many of these companies are participating in an online demonstration in support of net neutrality. The website lists all the major participants who are in support of net neutrality.

The future of what will happen with net neutrality is currently unknown. Any citizen who has an opinion of what should occur with net neutrality and the future vote should take the time to contact the FCC.

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