On Monday, June 11, the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality rules went into effect, but don’t expect the Internet to change overnight.
By Kit Walsh, J.D. / 06.11.2018
Electronic Frontier Foundation
We still have promising avenues to restore net neutrality rules, meaning that Internet Service Providers need to be careful how much ammunition they give us in that political fight. If they’re overt about discrimination or gouging customers they increase the chance that we’ll succeed and restore binding net neutrality rules.
Much like the ten years before the Open Internet Order in 2015, ISPs are still disciplined by the threat of regulation if they generate too many examples of abuse.
What will happen, though, and what we have already seen under the Trump FCC, is that ISPs play games at the margins. Both landline and mobile ISPs with data caps have already been pushing customers to particular services and media with zero-rating and throttling. And they’ve been pushing hard to stick us all in slow lanes unless the sites we visit pay protection money — Verizon even told federal judges it would do this if there were no net neutrality rules.
ISPs stand to gain from creating artificial scarcity — reducing the available bandwidth to reach their customers so they can make people bid for the privilege. We know this because they turn down offers to build up the infrastructure that would prevent congestion, as when Netflix offered to build a content delivery network for Comcast, for free. Comcast refused and was ultimately able to use congestion to force Netflix to pay up.
Removing net neutrality won’t lead to more investment but rather less, because it means ISPs have the option of auctioning off limited access to customers.
You can look forward to an Internet that’s slower when you’re trying to visit less popular sites, and where online services get a bit more expensive because they have to pay protection money to the ISPs. It will be harder for new companies to come in and compete with the ones that paid for fast lanes, and the nonprofit information resources on the web will be harder to use.
It’s not going to be a flashy apocalypse; it will be a slow decline into the Internet of ISP gatekeeping, and you probably won’t even know what neat services and helpful resources you’re missing. And one day, when the ISPs are secure in their victory, they’ll test the waters and see if you’ll pay extra to access anything that’s not Facebook, or Comcast’s video platform, or AT&T’s paying partners.
There’s still time to avoid this future, though. We won in the Senate and now it’s time for the House of Representatives to vote to reinstate the Open Internet Order and protect the neutral, vibrant Internet.