Today the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 across party lines to implement a measure that will remove net neutrality rules established in 2015. This comes after a plan put in place by the FCC chairman Ajit Pai, who said this measure would help consumers.
“We are helping consumers and promoting competition,” Pai said before the vote. “Broadband providers will have more incentive to build networks, especially to underserved areas.”
Pai and two fellow Republican commissioners voted in favor of removing net neutrality, while the opposing Democrat commissioners voted against it.
“I dissent, because I am one of the millions outraged,” Mignon Clyburn, one of the Democrat commissioners said. “Outraged, because the FCC pulls its own teeth, abdicating responsibility to protect the nation’s broadband consumers.”
According to The Verge, the removal of net neutrality essentially invites the privatization of the Internet — Internet service providers will now legally be allowed to block and throttle traffic to individual sites, as well as offer fast lanes for a premium.
Internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and others may now prioritize their own content while slowing access to competitor sites, or blocking access altogether.
Jessica Rosenworcel, the other Democrat commissioner who voted against the repeal said that the vote was a “rash decision” that gives internet providers the “green light to go ahead [and] discriminate and manipulate your internet traffic.”
“This is not good,” Rosenworcel said. “Not good for consumers. Not good for businesses. Not good for anyone who connects and creates online.”
According to both Democrats, this vote is particularly dangerous for marginalized groups that use digital spaces to connect and share information.
“[This vote is] particularly damning … for marginalized groups, like communities of color that rely on platforms like the internet to communicate,” Clyburn said.
Big social media sites like Facebook and Twitter will have the resources to afford higher broadband speeds, but smaller platforms — such as LGBT dating apps, startup social media sites and more — may not be able to afford competitive speeds, The Verge reports.
According to the Washington Post, most Internet providers deny that they will itemize specific apps and services and charge more for premium speeds, sticking with Pai’s claim that this repeal will ultimately benefit consumers.
Industry analyst Glenn O’Donnell disagrees, however, writing to the Post that, “You and I and everyone else who uses the Internet for personal use will see some change in pricing models. For most of us, I expect we will pay more. Service bundles (e.d., social media package, streaming video package) will likely be bolted on to basic transport for things like web surfing and email.”
Now that the vote has been cast, the commission will take the next few weeks to finalize adjustments to the rules. The measure still needs to be presented to Congress before any final changes are made.
The Verge reports that the changes will not be made overnight, but rather internet providers will likely experiment with subtle changes such as offering certain services for free or speeding the delivery of their own content.
One thing is likely, and that is the disadvantage of small sites and startups that don’t have the money to afford fast internet speeds. More than ever before, the apps and services we are exposed to will be the ones who have paid for our attention over the rest, leaving those without resources to suffer.