It’s dead. No, not the Internet. Net neutrality. After months of legal challenges, public backlash, and Democrats trying to overturn it, the repeal of net neutrality has finally been completed. You can now count to three and wait for the likes of John Oliver and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to hysterically declare – yet again – that the internet is coming to an end and that the only webpage you will access for free is DonaldJTrump.com.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially rescinded the law that was enacted by former President Barack Obama in 2015. The rules mandate that internet service providers (ISPs) extend equal access to all web content without offering preferential treatment or charging extra for certain content.
FCC Chair Ajit Pai defended the move in a CNET op-ed, explaining that deregulation will now spur innovation and investment.
“In 2015, the FCC stripped the FTC — the nation’s premier consumer protection agency — of its authority over internet service providers. This was a loss for consumers and a mistake we have reversed. Starting Monday, the FTC will once again be able to protect Americans consistently across the internet economy, and the FCC will work hand-in-hand with our partners at the FTC to do just that.”
Cue the conspiracy theories and doomsday scenarios: ISPs will block content, throttle websites, and try to take over the world.
Net neutrality proponents often warned that broadband providers would sell the internet in bundles. For instance, under a bundling system, customers would pay a premium to access streaming websites, like Amazon Video, Netflix, or Hulu. This didn’t happen before and it’s not going to happen after.
In fact, what happened instead was the decline in broadband network investments – the first time in history. But who cares about those residing in rural communities where online access is limited? They’re a bunch of deplorables who only use the web for guns, porn, and Matt Walsh religious articles anyway!
States Taking Over Net Neutrality
The misguided rule might be finished at the federal level, but left-leaning states might keep it alive. Democratic governors are embracing the 10th Amendment once again (isn’t that supposedly racist?) and are implementing their own versions of net neutrality.
In defiance of Trump’s FCC, more than two-dozen states have proposed legislation that is modeled after net neutrality. State lawmakers contend that it is now their responsibility to regulate the industry and ensure there is an open and free Internet – because regulations are the only way to guarantee freedom.
Oregon and Washington have passed legislation, while California is on the cusp of approving a bill. Other states are mulling over the implementation of executive orders that restrict the state from working with a broadband business that disregards the rudimentary concepts of net neutrality.
The tech industry is presently working with some Republicans to propose a replacement that maintains some of the principles behind net neutrality. By doing this, supporters say, you would at least eliminate the uncertainty of whether ISPs will install digital fast lanes or not.
The Internet is Still Here
The rumors of the internet’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, the internet is still here; Pai did not kill it with his bare hands.
Tweeting will not cost you $4.99 per month, binge-watching will not come with an additional $9.99 monthly charge, and complaining about the way Boston Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart is being used will not come with a $99.99 annual fee. Nothing has changed.
Despite polls highlighting widespread support for net neutrality, history has shown that regulation begets regulation, and that the only ones who benefit from government intervention are special interests – in this case, Facebook and Google. That is not the greatest of company to keep.
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