The Federal Communications Commission today passed a proposal that begins the process of unraveling the regulations currently protecting net neutrality.
The FCC voted 2-1 to advance a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, a necessary step for an independent federal agency like the FCC to change or implement a rule or regulation. The NPRM lays out a plan that would remove the Internet’s current classification as a public utility and re-categorize it as “information service.” Such a rule change would open the door for Internet Service Providers to dramatically overhaul how they offer Internet service to their customers.
However, this is not a final verdict, and net neutrality is still intact for the time being. After passing the NPRM, the FCC now is obligated to open it to public comment for 90 days; go to this link to leave a comment. A final vote on the proposal is expected later this year.
Since 2015, the Internet has been classified as a telecommunications utility, regulated under parts of Title II of the Telecommunications Act. This act requires that ISPs behave in the common good, which in practice means that ISPs cannot prioritize the transfer of certain types of data.
In other words, without net neutrality, ISPs can theoretically change the speed of your Internet connection depending on if you’re, say, on Netflix, or if you’re using email. They could then create tiered payment plans for consumers, with only the top-paying customers getting high-speed access to “premium” websites.