Obama-era rules have been repealed, in a controversial move that could allow internet service providers to prioritize certain content.
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- The US FCC voted 3-2 to repeal the 2015 net neutrality regulations that ensure fair treatment of all online content by ISPs.
- Opponents of the repeal fear that it could lead to dampened freedom of speech, internet fast lanes for certain content, and more.
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially voted to repeal net neutrality Thursday, with a 3-2 vote to end the Obama-era regulations that guaranteed equal treatment of all online content by internet service providers (ISP).
The effort was spearheaded by FCC chairman Ajit Pai, marking the most controversial act in his short tenure in the role. The vote was split along party lines, with the three Republican members voting for the repeal and the two Democratic members voting against it.
Pai detailed his official plan back in November, claiming that the repeal would keep the government from "micromanaging the internet." However, many have said the writing was on the wall for the repeal with the election of US president Donald Trump, who called net neutrality "Obama's attack on the internet."
SEE: Job description: Wireless network engineer (Tech Pro Research)
Further evidence for a coming repeal was the FCC's May 2017 vote to remove Title II classification from the internet. This essentially changed the classification of the internet from a utility to an information service.
Proponents of ending net neutrality, including Pai himself, said they believe that de-regulating the internet will lead to increased competition among service providers.
"Broadband providers will have more incentive to build networks, especially to underserved areas," Pai said before the vote took place.
On the other hand, opponents of the repeal fear that rolling back net neutrality could allow ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon to throttle or block rival content if its creators don't pay a certain fine. They also said they believe that these ISPs could also offer potential fast lanes to partner companies or firms with content they want to promote in partnership.
For consumers, the repeal could mean that certain streaming products or online services may be separated and sold a la cart, potentially leading to higher monthly prices for the same access.
"What saddens me the most today is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is actually abandoning you," said FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who voted against the measure.
However, Pai was adamant that the repeal wouldn't negatively affect consumer. "The sky is not falling," Pai said. "Consumers will remain protected."
How this repeal will immediately affect consumers and businesses isn't totally clear. In order to get out ahead of the repeal, many content providers could simply cut deals with the ISPs to maintain their traffic flow. Netflix, for example, struck deals with multiple providers to guarantee the necessary bandwidth to keep their services up and running.
- Special report: How to choose and manage great tech partners (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- FCC revisited: Net neutrality changes are misleading and not benign (ZDNet)
- Net neutrality: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
- Trump's FCC announces plans to kill net neutrality (ZDNet)
- A Trump presidency could mean trouble for net neutrality rules (TechRepublic)
- Read the full opinions of the FCC commissioners who voted to end net neutrality (CNET)
- Read the full dissenting opinions of the FCC commissioners who tried to save net neutrality (CNET)