Today the Federal Communications Commission begins the process of rolling back net neutrality rules that were implemented in 2015, under the Obama administration.
Those rules forbid internet service providers from slowing or prioritizing lawful internet traffic for money or other compensation. The existing regulations make it illegal for Verizon to speed up its own streaming video site while slowing down competitors like Netflix, for example. They also forbid internet providers from selling faster service to some companies at a premium.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has been a vocal critic of net neutrality throughout his career, though he often avoids using that nickname for the regulations.
“Two years ago, I warned that we were making a serious mistake,” Pai said during a speech in Washington D.C. last month. “Most importantly, I said that [increased] regulation would reduce investment in broadband infrastructure. It’s basic economics: The more heavily you regulate something, the less of it you’re likely to get. Now, when you talk about less infrastructure investment, many people’s eyes glaze over. But it’s important to explain in plain terms what the consequences are. Reduced investment means fewer Americans will have high-speed Internet access. It means fewer American will have jobs. And it means less competition for consumers.”
The Internet Association, a lobby that represents Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Netflix, and other big tech companies, sees it differently.
“The 2015 rules are working, and the internet industry remains opposed to any changes to FCC regulations governing net neutrality,” Internet Association CEO Michael Beckerman said in a statement. “ISPs should not be able to use their position as gatekeepers to prioritize their own content over others. Internet companies stand with consumers, startups, and other beneficiaries of the ecosystem in our fight to maintain a free and open internet.”
Seattle-based Amazon is among the companies that stand to lose the most if net neutrality regulations are rolled back. The company is aggressively developing its video streaming product, which relies on speedy internet.
“Amazon has long supported net neutrality to ensure consumers can enjoy an open internet, and we remain committed to that position,” an Amazon spokesperson told GeekWire.
The vote today is over a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Essentially, it’s the first step in a long process that would rewrite the rules established by the Obama administration and return to a “light-touch regulatory framework” for internet service providers. Pai has the votes in the FCC to pass the notice, as Bloomberg notes, but changes will not be immediate. The process of implementing new rules will likely take months.