There has been a lot of dust kicked up lately in the public sphere around the impending rollback by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the net neutrality regulations. Mixed in this dust is a lot of misinformation and campaigning by the various interests. Below you will find my best shot at clearly describing the background, current situation and possible future outcomes.


  • WHAT IS NET NEUTRALITY? Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) (think of the giants Verizon, AT&T and Comcast) must deliver all content at the same speed and cost, so the big guys (think Amazon, Google, and Facebook) and the small guys (use your imagination here) pay the same fees for the same speed. This principle mandates a level playing field.
  • WHERE DOES THE NET NEUTRALITY MANDATE COME FROM? In 2015, the FCC passed regulations reclassifying broadband Internet access service as a Title II telecommunications service. This means that the ISPs became subject to “common carrier” provisions that regulate utilities (like transportation and telephones) thereby prohibiting ISPs from discriminating how broadband services are provided. To see the really vague definition of “common carrier” look at the FCC Act – 47 U.S. Code § 153 (11).
  • WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW? The FCC is scheduled to vote on December 14th on removing this “common carrier” classification and restoring the broadband Internet access service to a Title I information service, which would be exempt from common carrier regulations. Once ISPs are no longer classified as common carriers, they will free to discriminate among websites and Internet services, meaning they will be able to charge more to allow certain websites and services to operate with more bandwidth.
  • WHY IS THIS HAPPENING NOW? The Trump administration is on a campaign to reduce regulations in many industries. The current chairman of the FCC is Ajit Pai (a former lawyer for Verizon by the way) who is a vocal critic of net neutrality. He believes that regulation has held back ISP investment in Internet infrastructure. Pai says “Instead [of the net neutrality regulations], the FCC 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.”
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