On Tuesday, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its plan to take down the existing net neutrality rules put in place under the Obama administration. Outlined in an official statement from FCC chairman Ajit Pai, the plan will be voted on in the FCC's open meeting on December 14.
In his statement, Pai called the Obama administration's rules a "failed approach," and noted that he plans to return to the approach of lighter regulations established by the Clinton administration.
"Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet," Pai said in his statement. "Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that's best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate."
SEE: Network security policy (Tech Pro Research)
Despite its potential impact, there's still a lot of confusion around the net neutrality battle. Here are three simple key points to help people better understand the potential future of the internet.
1. The controversy
Net neutrality is the current model under which the internet operates in the US. Under its regulations, internet service providers (ISPs) must be neutral in how they enable access to online content for their customers, i.e. they cannot block or filter certain websites or applications.
By dismantling net neutrality, ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon could potentially block or throttle content from rivals, or from companies that don't pay a certain fine. On the other hand, they could also potentially offer "fast lanes" to partners or other firms whose content they wish to promote. This could becomes especially problematic for competing streaming services, as ISPs could greatly influence their performance by slowing their bandwidth.
Opponents of the repeal fear that it could make it more difficult for smaller companies, or those not associated with an ISP, to compete; making way for more monopolies. Others have posited that the repeal of net neutrality could lead to more subscription services and certain websites packaged together as deals, much like how cable companies package certain channels.
2. Business impact
The consumer impact of a net neutrality repeal is fairly straightforward, in that users may find it more difficult to access the content they want to view it, or may be forced to pay more to access certain content. However, there is also a potential business impact.
Nearly every business, regardless of industry, relies on the internet to get work done. And that could be made more difficult with the end of net neutrality. For example, if an ISP were to strike a deal with Microsoft, it may begin to prioritize connections to Office 365 over connections to Google's G Suite. Or, if an ISP were to ink a deal with Google Cloud Platform, connections to Amazon Web Services (AWS) could suffer.
None such deals have transpired that we know of, the point is that they will be legal if the new repeal goes through, while they are illegal under current net neutrality regulations.
3. How to get involved
The proposed order will be voted on during a December 14 FCC meeting. Currently, the plan is expected to pass along party lines, with the FCC's three Republicans voting for the repeal and its two Democrats voting against it.
As reported by Wired, states will be banned from attempting to circumvent the appeal by releasing their own version of net neutrality regulations.
While the voting is expected to happen along party lines, million of citizens on both sides of the political spectrum have voiced their support for net neutrality regulations, writing to the FCC to share their opinion. Interested users who wish to voice support for net neutrality or its repeal should contact their local representatives and the FCC.
Users can also vote with their dollar, choosing to support a company or end their contract with a company based on their net neutrality stance.
- Congress just dismantled FCC rules protecting web browsing history: What it means (TechRepublic)
- Trump's FCC begins net neutrality attack (ZDNet)
- FCC votes to overturn Obama's open internet rules, but that doesn't mean net neutrality is history (TechRepublic)
- Trump's FCC announces plans to kill net neutrality (ZDNet)
- US Congress votes on FCC rules: Why your web history could be at risk (TechRepublic)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.