The FCC voted on Thursday to roll back the rules regarding net neutrality put in place in 2015 under President Obama. The vote split along party lines with the two Democratic members – Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn – voting no while the Republican members – Michael O’ Rielly and Brendan Carr along with Chairman Ajit Pai – voting yes.
The hearing was interrupted briefly by a security concern.
In her dissenting statement, Clyburn said the fight to preserve the rule would move to the courts. Because of that, immediate impacts are likely to be delayed.
Net neutrality is the principle that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. Under net neutrality protections, internet service providers are barred from blocking, slowing, or providing preferred treatment to particular sites and services. The rules are designed to keep the internet open to all comers and give everyone a fair shot.
According to BusinessInsider.com, without net-neutrality protections, ISPs could block you from streaming video from Netflix or YouTube or charge you extra just to access those sites. They could also force Netflix or YouTube to pay more to ensure that its videos be streamed at the same speed and quality as at other video sites. It could also impact how consumers interact with local television and radio stations via their digital applications and third-party sources as well as impacting video/audio playback on digital platforms.
Such moves would most likely force you to pay more to view and access the videos and other information you regularly get through the internet. They also could limit your choices if the ISPs block access to particular companies’ sites or charge those companies tolls that only the biggest and richest among them can afford.
The FCC has had some form of net-neutrality protections in place since 2005. After two different versions of the rules were struck down in court, the FCC in 2015 officially designated broadband providers as telecommunications companies, a move that allowed it to put in place new rules grounded in its authority over such companies under Title II of the Communications Act.
Net neutrality has a historical antecedent: radio. According to Smithsonianmag.com, back when radio was becoming the rage, anyone could broadcast as long as they could get a signal out. It didn’t matter if it was someone sitting at home talking about the farm report, a preacher providing sermons or someone announcing train arrivals.
It didn’t take long for corporations to see money could be made and they began creating more professional stations. Soon the airwaves to begin to get crowded, with signals overlapping. A 1926 court ruling said the government had no control over the airwaves and chaos ensued. Big stations and companies lobbied Congress and in 1927 the Federal Radio Commission was created to assign wavelengths. As it regulated the airwaves more, amateur stations hung in. But mostly, amateur broadcasters faded, Smithsonianmag.com said.