The FCC voted 3-2 to roll back the regulations that the agency adopted in 2015, which classified the internet as a utility, like phone service. The regulations kept broadband companies like AT&T and Verizon from blocking websites or charging users more money to access content or higher quality service.
Greg Monterrosa, one of the managers of Cal Lutheran University’s business incubator Hub101 in Westlake Village, said the repeal will affect small businesses as well as households.
“The big concern is that the equal playing field we get as entrepreneurs and startups, a lot of people feel that’s going to go away. Imagine what it does for the person that sustains their family with an online business, the people who don’t have the money to compete with the Coca Colas or the Netflixes,” Monterrosa said. “It affects everybody. It affects how content is going to be delivered to me, how I’m going to get my news, my updates, what information is streamed to me.”
At a press conference after the vote, FCC Chair Ajit Pai praised the decision and said deregulation was the best way to preserve an open internet.
“With the adoption of today’s order, consumers and innovators will still be able to go where they want and do what they want online,” Pai said. “At the same time, by removing heavy-handed regulations that stand in the way of deploying digital infrastructure, I’m also confident that more consumers will enjoy better, faster and cheaper internet access.”
The changes will not take place right away, but consumers could soon see packaged plans that favor some content over others.
Net neutrality kept AT&T from favoring Yahoo over Google and charging customers more money to access the popular search engine. With those rules repealed, it’s completely legal as long as AT&T discloses the practice to customers.
Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, was appointed to lead the FCC by President Trump. Last April, Pai announced his plans to repeal the Obama-era regulations that kept broadband providers from charging customers to access content.
The announcement was controversial— people across the country protested the proposal, and numerous companies, Amazon, Google and Netflix among them, voiced their opposition.
Between April 27 and Aug. 30 the FCC accepted comments from the public on net neutrality. The agency received 21.7 million comments, but it was later determined that only 6 percent of those were unique.
The Pew Research Center found that over half of the submissions used duplicate email addresses and thousands of comments were credited to the same individuals, making it impossible to determine if a given comment came from a specific citizen.
Additionally, on nine separate occasions over 75,000 comments were submitted at the exact same second.
The Pew study also determined that 94 percent of comments were submitted multiple times and could be traced to a handful of organizations, some in favor of net neutrality and some opposed.
The single most popular comment was a pro-neutrality statement from the website www.battleforthenet.com.
Democratic lawmakers have called for a bill to reestablish the rules. Several state attorneys general have announced they will sue to stop deregulation, as have public interest groups.
Monterrosa said the best thing internet users who oppose the repeal can do is contact their representatives and support legislation regulating broadband providers. He said that if providers can charge more for certain content, businesses may have to cut employee compensations.
“It’s definitely going to have some kind of trickle-down effect on the employees when companies have to allocate their budgets now to spend on getting their searches viewed,” Monterrosa said. “The money has to come from somewhere. Now more than ever our economy is based on (internet openness). We’re trying to create high-paying jobs here, so, if anything, what (Pai) is going to do is help these big companies become even bigger to where they don’t have to pay a good living wage like some of these startups that raise capital pay.”