The FCC’s New Take on Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know
The Trump administration’s Federal Communications Commission on Thursday officially begins the process of unraveling the Open Internet rules passed by the commission under Barack Obama. The FCC’s rules on net neutrality dominated tech policy circles in 2014 and 2015, and 2017 is shaping up to be similar. Here are answers to your basic questions:
Wait, remind me again, what is net neutrality? The basic idea is that internet service providers shouldn’t be allowed to treat traffic on their networks differently based on the source or type of content. Supporters of net neutrality think that there should be rules to keep, for instance, AT&T from providing preferential treatment to streaming video from DirecTV, which it owns, giving itself an advantage while harming other businesses and their customers. Another example of a violation would be if Verizon slowed down Netflix traffic until the company paid for speedier service.
What’s happening today? At its monthly meeting, the FCC will vote to accept a proposal by Chairman Ajit Pai entitled “Restoring Internet Freedom.” It’s the first step in the commission’s rule making process — the document Pai is presenting is called a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, or NPRM. In the broadest sense, these rules are intended to undo the 2015 rules. And while Pai has the votes to win today, undoing the rules will take awhile. Nine months passed between the time that Tom Wheeler, Obama’s FCC chair, introduced his open internet proposal in 2014 and the vote on the final rules. As Pai said in a speech at the end of April, this is the beginning of the discussion, not the end.