Yesterday, the FCC voted on a proposal to repeal Obama-era net neutrality laws. Net neutrality is the the radical (not actually radical) notion that internet service should be considered a public utility. Like, say, water. Makes sense, right?
The proposal passed by a vote of 3-2 as expected, because party lines. (Briefly: the Trump admin and FCC chair Ajit Pai believe that de-regulating ISP’s will eventually encourage innovation. Or that’s the line, anyway.) It was a sad day for the internet, and for our inalienable right to free speech and access to information. It was pretty much a sad day for people in general.
But what does it all mean to you, intrepid small business owner/ambitious entrepreneur/general internet user?
Nothing, immediately. It’ll take a few weeks for the repeal to go into effect, so you won’t see any changes right away. On top of that, activist and public interest groups like Free Speech and Public Knowledge have stated intentions to pursue the matter in court, and Democratic politicians are calling for a bill that would reinstate net neutrality laws, one that would more strongly mitigate current regulations that FCC law changes not be “capricious or arbitrary,” (i.e.: politically motivated).
So it’s tough to say how this all actually looks, in the end.
The general fear is that a rollback of net neutrality laws will allow gigantic ISP’s like Comcast and Verizon to throttle internet access through pay-to-play tactics for both businesses and consumers. That could look like internet fast lanes for those who can afford them, brand-specific content access based on provider, and throw-down-or-go-down financial requirements for businesses that want to rank in search results, which could effectively squash small businesses completely. Basically, it could be carte blanche for ISP’s, and at the expense of pretty much everyone.
It’s safe to say that the dust hasn’t settled on net neutrality, and it’s a high stakes debate for every single American. So get educated, pay attention, and speak up, because net neutrality absolutely affects you, too.