On December 14, 2017, the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality. Protesters around the country had gathered in order to stop the FCC from voting to repeal such a monumental law that provides everyone with equal access to the internet. Net neutrality deemed the internet a free monopoly, preventing companies from being able to charge people for faster internet or asking them to pay in order to use certain site. However, the FCC decided that net neutrality was hindering businesses because of that fact and passed the Restoring Internet Freedoms Act in order to undo the Obama-era regulation.
After the act was passed, net neutrality fell into the shadows. However, within the final week of April, action has been taken to make the repeal of net neutrality official, meaning we are currently living in an era without net neutrality. Right now, everything seems like nothing has changed. Soon enough though, we will all feel the pressures that come without net neutrality.
The internet is now considered an information service which means that internet service providers will have to release transparency reports detailing their policies, much like any service provider must do. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has gained authority over the internet as well. They can now regulate telecommunications practices without the previous regulations and costs that net neutrality provided. While it seems like all is well because of the FTC, it really isn’t. The FTC is just there to watch the businesses. That doesn’t mean they will prevent businesses from creating separate packages for certain sites or from blocking use of certain sites. It just means they are there to ensure the laws created by the FCC are followed.
Currently, 21 states, led by California and Oregon, are suing the FCC in order to block their implementation of the Restoring Internet Freedoms Act. The goal is to allow state governments to take the idea of net neutrality into their own hands. They wish to be able to create their own laws that prevent businesses from being able to block and throttle content online. California state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) reported to USA Today, “In California, we can lead the effort to clean up this mess and implement comprehensive, thorough Internet protections that put California Internet users and consumers first.”
Many other states feel the same way as Sen. Wiener, leading them to join in in taking action against the FCC. Here in RI, Gov. Gina Raimondo has her own plan for protecting the internet rights of RI citizens. On April 24, Raimondo signed an executive order in response to the FCC’s repeal. The order requires the state internet providers to follow the net neutrality regulations defined by the Obama-era regulation. The General Assembly is now considering legislation to make these protections permanent in order to provide the citizens of RI with the internet rights they deserve.
The buzz that net neutrality is creating also suggests that it’ll continue to be a hot topic into the 2020 election. A survey conducted by Voice of the People found that 86% of citizens support net neutrality and come from a good portion of both parties. Candidates who wish to gain voters can use net neutrality as part of platforms. It is an issue that many people are concerned about as it affects their lives greatly. The need for net neutrality is great, and this issue is far from over.