Yesterday's vote by the FCC on Net Neutrality clearly isn't the final word on the matter, as both sides of the issue continue to debate what a "free and neutral" Internet really is.
On Thursday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted along party lines to undo "Net Neutrality" rules put in place during the Obama administration. The stated purpose for Net Neutrality was to ensure Internet service providers (ISPs) treat all content equally; and those in favor of it argue that companies such as Netflix or Amazon pay to speed up traffic to their websites. At that time, the FCC claimed it had authority to do Net Neutrality based on Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.
Already Washington State is suing the current FCC for undoing Net Neutrality. Other lawsuits are expected, and not just from states or attorneys general, but special interest groups. On Capitol Hill, Senator Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) tweeted that he planned to introduce a Congressional Review Act resolution that "would restore the Open Internet Order and reverse the FCC's historical mistake of repealing Net Neutrality."
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) supports the idea. "This is the end of the Internet as we know it," the senator said in a video posted online. "In Congress and in the courts, we must fight back."
Still, the FCC stands by its vote. "The Federal Communications Commission voted to restore the longstanding, bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework that has fostered rapid Internet growth, openness, and freedom for nearly 20 years," the agency said in a statement. "The FCC's 2015 heavy-handed, utility-style regulation of broadband Internet access service … imposed substantial costs on the entire Internet ecosystem."
In other words, today's FCC believes Net Neutrality would harm, not help, the Internet. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) agrees:
Ryan: "Despite its unassuming name, the Obama administration's net neutrality regulation threatens the free and open Internet that has done so much to advance modern society. The Trump administration's action to roll back this egregious government overreach into the most innovative space will benefit all users of the Internet. As [FCC] chairman Pai outlined today, the way to protect consumers is to put the Federal Trade Commission back on the beat to crack down on those who would abuse open access. This new plan of action will open new avenues for telemedicine, distance learning, and future innovations."
Meanwhile, Ryan Radia of the Competitive Enterprise Institute says users can still get on Facebook, surf YouTube, and even binge watch Netflix without Net Neutrality.
"I can pretty much guarantee it," he says. "If you are a consumer and you want to know what's going to happen now that Net Neutrality regulation has been taken off the book, the answer is probably nothing for the short-term. Your Internet experience is not going to change dramatically; probably not at all, in fact. It'll more or less be the same, at least for the time being."
In the longer run, Radia says consumers may see changes that are beneficial, perhaps even some arrangements involving ISPs and content companies like Netflix that Radia says could mean lower bills for Internet users.
"[I think] that's ... a little longer on the horizon maybe in a few years, rather than in the immediate term, [but] there is nothing to worry about right now," he continues. "Your ability to binge-watch over the holidays is not going to be affected by the FCC decision, no matter what you hear from left-wing activists and certain companies that have a self-interest in not having to pay for any of this infrastructure."