Net neutrality repeal: Now what?

By voting to end net neutrality protections, the FCC is continuing a decade-long game of regulatory ping pong. The ba...

Posted: Dec 16, 2017 5:09 PM
Updated: Dec 16, 2017 5:09 PM

By voting to end net neutrality protections, the FCC is continuing a decade-long game of regulatory ping pong. The ball has come over to the conservative side of the net, but the match isn't over yet.

The now Republican-controlled FCC repealed the commission's Obama-era rule prohibiting broadband companies from speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps. The FCC also eliminated a rule barring internet providers from prioritizing their own content.

The rules governing the internet will essentially go back to the way they were before 2015: The FCC says it will put up a fight if it determines a broadband company is acting in an anti-competitive manner. But broadband providers will no longer be subject to explicit restrictions on particular types of behavior.

The repeal of Obama-era internet regulations likely won't take effect until sometime next year. It must be formally approved by the Office of Management and Budget, which could happen in "several months," according to an FCC representative.

Related: What net neutrality means for you

Meanwhile, multiple state attorneys general have threatened lawsuits to block the FCC's order. It's unclear what will come of the lawsuits -- the courts haven't exactly been friendly to the FCC's prior attempts to regulate the internet.

In 2008, when George W. Bush was president, the FCC ordered Comcast to stop slowing its customers' speeds when downloading massive files from BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file transfer service and haven for pirated movies. Comcast sued to block the FCC's order and the courts ruled in Comcast's favor.

During the Obama' administration, the FCC tried three times to implement net neutrality regulations. The courts blocked the first two attempts, but the FCC ultimately succeeded in 2015 by labeling broadband a utility -- a legal classification that provided the FCC broader oversight powers.

If the states' lawsuits don't amount to anything, a new law might. Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, called on Congress to pass a bipartisan bill protecting a fair and open internet.

It's unlikely such a bill could pass muster in a Republican-controlled Congress and White House. But the general idea of internet freedom legislation has been endorsed by Comcast and some of its broadband rivals eager for regulatory clarity.

Net neutrality advocates fear that the FCC created open season for broadband companies to cut deals with content providers. For example, Verizon could soon legally charge Netflix to speed up its service on the FiOS network, leaving rivals Amazon and Hulu with slower speeds.

The nation's largest broadband providers swear that's not going to happen. They have all said they remain committed to upholding net neutrality principles despite Thursday's FCC decision.

Comcast has long stated that it supports net neutrality, though advocates noted that the company substantially pared back its open internet website on Thursday after the FCC repealed its regulations.

Related: Reactions to net neutrality

The positive news for consumers is broadband companies have historically been good net neutrality actors even before the FCC's 2015 rules kicked in. The number of net neutrality violations is not zero, but examples are few.

In addition to Comcast's slowing of some BitTorrent downloads, Verizon blocked Google Wallet on iPhones from 2011 to 2013 because it rivaled Verizon's own payment platform. AT&T blocked FaceTime in 2012 for customers on certain data plans. And T-Mobile last year made it cheaper for its users to stream certain video services -- notably after the stricter net neutrality rules were in place.

That's about it.

As lawmakers, regulators, broadband companies and courts continue to jostle for control of net neutrality rules, much remains uncertain about the future of internet regulation. In the meantime, there's a big spotlight on broadband providers' behavior, and net neutrality advocates will be paying close attention to any changes they make.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 265146

Reported Deaths: 5777
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17741191
Hinds16891332
Harrison14279204
Rankin11239220
Jackson10917190
Lee9071145
Madison8599169
Jones6731118
Forrest6208124
Lauderdale6121192
Lowndes5544120
Lafayette520598
Lamar505865
Washington4933125
Bolivar4126109
Oktibbeha408382
Panola386981
Pontotoc377460
Monroe3686110
Warren3685103
Marshall357170
Union356864
Pearl River3495106
Neshoba3490154
Leflore3118109
Lincoln306788
Hancock294262
Sunflower291975
Tate280662
Alcorn273154
Pike270181
Itawamba269363
Scott260048
Yazoo256756
Prentiss253754
Coahoma249755
Copiah249749
Tippah249750
Simpson242872
Leake238167
Marion224273
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Adams215171
Wayne213734
Winston207671
George204739
Newton199946
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Jasper181138
Holmes172068
Clay166837
Tallahatchie157235
Stone152525
Clarke148162
Calhoun141322
Smith130026
Yalobusha123335
Walthall114537
Greene113729
Noxubee113026
Montgomery112036
Carroll106822
Lawrence106817
Perry105131
Amite102126
Webster96824
Tunica89021
Claiborne88825
Jefferson Davis88430
Benton85823
Humphreys84724
Kemper80920
Quitman7139
Franklin70617
Choctaw63713
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45217
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 441170

Reported Deaths: 6660
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson646811007
Mobile31620572
Madison28310217
Tuscaloosa21525275
Montgomery19954332
Shelby19335132
Baldwin17256189
Lee13205107
Morgan12639142
Etowah12107181
Calhoun11521206
Marshall10471123
Houston9009164
Limestone834981
Cullman8274124
Elmore8214110
DeKalb7894107
Lauderdale7871107
St. Clair7854130
Talladega6481112
Walker6036183
Jackson601545
Colbert549994
Blount547386
Autauga537662
Coffee462464
Dale410785
Franklin374950
Russell357515
Chilton345473
Covington339680
Escambia335444
Tallapoosa3149109
Dallas313296
Chambers304270
Clarke300236
Pike262531
Lawrence254155
Marion253761
Winston233642
Bibb222348
Geneva211547
Marengo209331
Pickens199631
Hale185244
Barbour182738
Fayette178629
Butler174460
Cherokee165731
Henry159925
Monroe152421
Randolph146436
Washington142327
Clay130546
Crenshaw124045
Macon122337
Cleburne121825
Lamar120222
Lowndes115536
Wilcox107922
Bullock103528
Perry100018
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Sumter90527
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Coosa63618
Choctaw51924
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