3 Things to Know About Net Neutrality Deregulation

The FCC repealed net neutrality policies dating from 2015. Find out what it means for local economies, small businesses and consumers.

Editor's Note: Updated December 15, 2017. According to The New York Times, Internet Service Providers are no longer prohibited from blocking, throttling or paid prioritization.

According to the New York Times, the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai intends to deregulate Internet service providers (ISPs) at an F.C.C. meeting on December 14th. Net neutrality, a regulatory policy which requires ISPs to refrain from restricting the speed or access to content, applications or websites, may quickly end.

The F.C.C. would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them,” said Pai in a prepared statement.

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According to net neutrality proponents, the changes will limit access, increase costs and some of the deregulation momentum is based on fabricated public comments. Proponents say net neutrality is essential to keeping the Internet open and free. Here's what an end to net neutrality may mean:

#1 Bundling Websites, like Cable Bundles Broadcast Television, Will be Allowed

ISPs will be allowed to bundle websites just like they bundle television channels, according to Steven Salzberg, the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science and Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University. Some ISPs, like Comcast, have said in the past that they will not because consumers won't be pleased. The more likely scenario, Salzberg wrote in Forbes, will be a shift toward broadband plans where content providers favored by the ISP are given preferential treatment, known as "fast lanes."

#2 Small Businesses and Consumer Rates & Costs Likely to Increase

Without net neutrality, offering popular content will likely not be enough to establish an online business. Businesses will need to raise additional funding to pay ISPs, or accept digital presence in the slow lane, said Salzberg.

While larger companies like Amazon and Netflix may have the funds to pay ISPs higher fees, consumers' rates for certain services provided by these larger companies could go up.

#3 A Study of Public Comments Shows Evidence of Pro-Deregulation Tampering

Jeff Kao reported that after doing a natural language study of net neutrality comments submitted to the FCC from April through October 2017, more than one million pro-repeal comments were likely faked using spam bots and other techniques.

My research found at least 1.3 million fake pro-repeal comments, with suspicions about many more. In fact, the sum of fake pro-repeal comments in the proceeding may number in the millions," Kao reported on Hackernoon.

Kao's key findings:

  • One pro-repeal spam campaign used mail-merge to disguise 1.3 million comments as unique grassroots submissions.
  • Multiple campaigns injected millions of pro-repeal comments.
  • More than 99 percent of true unique comments favored keeping net neutrality.

In 2015, the FCC upheld net neutrality policies, and it's considered by many to be a necessary condition for municipal broadband, which supports emergency networks and other in-demand public services.

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