BROADBAND BREAKFAST INSIGHT: This piece by The Washington Post has, in turn, prompting some gloating by Republicans over at the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which criticized the “sweeping claims” of Democrats: “That consumers will see a sharp drop in Internet speeds if the Federal Communications Commission proceeds with its plan to unwind net neutrality rules imposed under President Barack Obama in 2015.” The Washington Post piece is fair-minded, to be sure, but it’s worth noting that nothing can truly be known on this score until FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s repeal of net neutrality rules goes into effect.
Will the FCC’s net neutrality repeal grind the Internet to a halt?, from The Washington Post
In 2015, the FCC voted 3 to 2 along party lines to approve rules enshrining what’s known as net neutrality — the idea that all types of digital traffic should be treated equally, whether it’s email, Web content, video or any other kind of data. The FCC’s Open Internet Order reclassified broadband providers as telecoms; imposed transparency rules; and, among other changes, barred these providers from blocking online content, throttling speeds or setting up Internet fast lanes and charging fees for their use, what’s known as “paid prioritization.”
For net neutrality advocates, the Open Internet Order was a milestone after years of debate and court battles over earlier regulations. A December 2017 report by the Congressional Research Service outlines the recent history of net neutrality in the FCC, Congress and the courts, and makes a key point: In an earlier online era, the most popular services were email and Web content, a relatively light load for networks. Since then, demand has grown for data-heavy services such as video streaming, online gaming and Internet voice services.
The Obama-era regulations prevented broadband companies from blocking or slowing down any online service or application for any reason other than reasonable network maintenance. The rules also barred paid prioritization. But these regulations would be in place for just short of three years.
The debate over net neutrality is reshaping the Internet and raising big-picture questions about modern life. But we can’t help but feel that we’ve spilled a lot of pixels here analyzing something that simply hasn’t happened.
Senate Democrats, industry leaders and net neutrality activists say the FCC’s move to toss out the Obama-era rules will bog down and end the Internet as we know it. The biggest broadband providers forcefully reject this claim, saying they have no plans to block or throttle content or offer paid prioritization.
(Illustration by Kalhh used with permission.)