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FCC Repeals Net Neutrality Rules: What's Going to Happen in the Future?

FCC Repeals Net Neutrality Rules: What's Going to Happen in the Future?
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By Susan Hoffman
Contributor, InCyberDefense

On Thursday, December 14, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reversed the net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama administration in 2015. During its December 2017 Open Commission Meeting, the FCC adopted a Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order, reversing net neutrality regulations by a 3-2 vote along party lines.

Under the previous net neutrality rules, all websites had to be treated equally. The new ruling gives Internet service providers (ISPs) the ability to favor preferred sites by throttling or blocking access to some websites or by charging extra fees. However, ISPs will be required to publicly disclose such actions or risk violating FCC rules.

Repeal of Net Neutrality Rules Faced Considerable Opposition

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, appointed by President Trump, has long favored repeal of what he considered a heavy-handed framework. But in the weeks prior to the FCC’s action, the FCC faced considerable opposition from the public, telecommunication experts and the two Democrats on the commission.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said before the 3-2 vote, “What saddens me the most today is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is actually abandoning you.”

According to a November 2017 Gray Television Washington News Bureau article by journalist Jacqueline Policastro, Michael Beckerman, President of the Internet Association, stated, “Without net neutrality rules, whoever your local broadband provider is has complete control over your Internet experience.” Policastro also noted that “more than half of Americans have access to only one Internet service provider.”

ArsTechnica senior IT reporter Jon Brodkin noted that certain organizations may file lawsuits to challenge the repeal. These organizations include the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Incompas and the Internet Association.

Who Wins and Who Loses in FCC Net Neutrality Repeal?

Net neutrality’s deregulation will most likely benefit ISPs. They could make more money from small businesses, consumers and start-up companies. Consumers’ cybersecurity could also face increased risk through “man-in-the-middle attacks” or from hackers gaining access to data repositories.

Federal Trade Commission and Congress to Monitor What Happens after the Repeal

Consumers will have some protection against abuse. According to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen, the FTC will be acting as “the cop on the broadband beat, where it has vigorously protected the privacy and security of consumer data and challenged broadband providers who failed to live up to their promises to consumers.”

Also, the repeal may face a congressional challenge. Congress can take action against the FCC’s deregulation through the Congressional Review Act of 1996. This act created fast-track procedures that allow Congress to “disapprove a broad range of regulatory rules issued by federal agencies by enacting a joint resolution of disapproval.”

Everyone’s experience with the Internet may or may not change significantly in the future. Only the actions of ISPs, organizations going to court, the FTC and Congress will determine the outcome of this situation.

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