US net neutrality rules expire, court battle looms

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The repeal of "net neutrality" took effect six months after the Federal Communications Commission voted to undo the rules, which had barred broadband and cellphone companies from favoring their own services and discriminating against rivals such as Netflix. "Plain and simple, thanks to the FCC's rollback of Net Neutrality, Internet providers have the legal green light, the technical ability, and business incentive to discriminate and manipulate what we see, read, and learn online". Last month, the Senate passed a last-ditch effort to overturn the FCC's repeal, but it never progressed to a House vote and was officially repealed Monday. To commemorate the occasion, FCC chairman Ajit Pai - the man mainly responsible for the repeal of Net Neutrality - penned an op-ed piece for CNET in which he champions the dissolution of internet regulations.

Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, bucked the law, ignored public opinion and twisted the facts to make his ill-advised case for handing control of the internet to the anti-competitive cabal of giant phone and cable companies that control broadband access in the United States. Now the vote goes the House, which has until the end of the year to bring to a vote.

As of late May, 29 state legislatures had introduced bills meant to ensure net neutrality, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The idea was to keep the internet open and uncensored. We're also waiting to hear whether the Supreme Court will agree to hear a separate lawsuit on net neutrality. Violations of their promises - or behaviors that threaten competition or consumers - now fall under the watch of the Federal Trade Commission, not the telecom-focused FCC. Several states, including New Jersey, Washington, Oregon and California, have gone so far as to push legislation to enforce the principles of net neutrality within their borders.

For now, we are in a wait and see mode to see what happens next. New online services will have a hard time competing if they have to pay to be in the "fast lane". Before the FCC passed the net neutrality rules in 2015, there were already reports that Verizon and Comcast were slowing down Netflix, YouTube, and other services.

Some lawmakers, states and tech companies are still fighting to save the rule. "That may be true next week, but over time I suspect they will start violating".

"It is a period of profound change", said Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, one of Pai's chief critics, "and we are also watching a lot of the big get even bigger". In January, attorneys general in 22 states and the District of Columbia filed a protective petition for review of the order.

A coalition of pro net-neutrality organizations has named Monday, June 11, as "Neutrality Action Day", and they're encouraging members to spread their messages on social media and contact their local representatives in the House.

For anyone who hasn't been following, net neutrality is the concept of treating all internet traffic the same, no matter where it originates from.

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