An Obama-era internet regulation officially ends Monday after it was repealed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Dec. 14, returning internet oversight to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Proponents of net neutrality, the broadly defined concept meaning that all internet data should be treated equally, have been protesting the FCC’s decision to roll back the regulation ever since the agency announced it, including a last-ditch effort on Monday to get the GOP-controlled House to vote in favor of the regulation. (RELATED: Activists Run By Terrorist Sympathizers Plan Day Of Protest For Net Neutrality)
At the heart of the debate is how best to guarantee internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast and Verizon don’t censor, throttle or play favorites against competing companies. Both critics and supporters of net neutrality argue that the opposing position deters competition.
Critics of the regulation are generally supportive of the idea behind net neutrality, but argue classifying it as a 1930s-era “Title II” public good would deter innovation. For years before the Obama administration put the net neutrality rule into place in 2015, the FTC and the Department of Justice oversaw the internet to ensure no companies were engaging in anticompetitive behavior.
“The Federal Trade Commission will police and take action against Internet service providers for anticompetitive acts or unfair and deceptive practices,” the FCC wrote in the decision, “Restoring Internet Freedom,” to repeal the regulation. “The FTC is the nation’s premier consumer protection agency, and until the FCC stripped it of jurisdiction over Internet service providers in 2015, the FTC protected consumers consistently across the Internet economy.”
Supporters of net neutrality argue that repealing the regulation will lead to increased prices and less competition.
One example illustrated in a Daily Caller News Foundation article demonstrates that a company like Comcast could potentially incentivize its customers to use its On Demand service by slowing down Netflix’s streaming capabilities.
There hasn’t been much evidence of ISPs throttling companies before the regulation was put in place, but there is evidence that platforms like Facebook and Twitter throttle and censor users for holding different political positions.
Comcast and 17 other ISPs pledged on May 17, 2017, not to block or slow down the internet, committing to an open internet.
“No matter what happens with this new FCC proceeding or whatever regulatory model comes next, we will continue to provide an open internet experience for our customers, and we remain willing to work with all parties on ways to promote internet freedom and continued technological progress,” they pledged in a statement.
AT&T also pledged not to slow down or throttle service and took a step further by advocating for an “Internet Bill of Rights.”
“It is time for Congress to end the debate once and for all, by writing new laws that govern the internet and protect consumers,” Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO, wrote in a statement on Jan. 24. “AT&T is committed to an open internet. We don’t block websites. We don’t censor online content. And we don’t throttle, discriminate, or degrade network performance based on content. Period.”
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