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Monday
Jun112018

'Net Neutrality' rules are now history, here's what that means

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Federal government rules preventing internet service providers from throttling certain content, often dubbed "net neutrality," officially died on Monday.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December voted 3-2 along party lines -- three Republicans to two Democrats -- to dismantle Obama-era policies that Chairman Ajit Pai said unnecessarily regulate the industry and impede the free market. In May, the FCC confirmed this action would become law in June.

But what exactly is going to be different in our day-to-day use of the internet?

That's unclear because these new rules are giving internet service providers, like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T, a chance to experiment with novel revenue streams.

Some of these giant companies pledged to never slow down or speed up certain pieces of content, but those commitments could evolve over time. In fact, Comcast deleted their promise to never prioritize internet traffic on the same day Pai finalized a repeal plan. Here is that web page on April 26, 2017, the day the FCC announced that plan, according to Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Here is the same URL the day after.

Under the new rules, these internet providers can legally engage in blocking, slowing or giving paid prioritization to websites, apps and other content providers that pay for it, as long as they disclose that to the public or the FCC. The Federal Trade Commission could come down on any company that deceives its customers.

One offer you could see are apps owned by or associated with an internet provider that run faster than other apps or do not count against mobile data usage. Some users could opt-in to disclose their browsing history for a discount on their internet service.

While some people may find these offers intriguing, many lawmakers are not buying it. A resolution passed on the Senate in May that if also passed by the House would reverse the FCC's vote and restore the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules. Even if it succeeds, the president is unlikely to sign it.

"Net neutrality is the main street business issue of the year," said Chip Pickering, CEO of INCOMPAS, a trade group representing internet and technology companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Netflix. "After a historic bipartisan vote in the Senate to reverse the FCC, the House must now listen to the 80 percent of Americans who are demanding net neutrality stay on the books."

Opponents of the new rules may face their best chances in the courts. More than 20 states have sued the FCC to stop the repeal. The case is expected to be heard this year.

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