The Net Neutrality Debate is Back. Here’s What You Need to Know

When Republicans took over the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a few months ago, there was little doubt that policy change would soon follow.

Now, the wheels are already in motion to roll back net neutrality rules that were imposed on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) during the Obama era.

In case you’re out of the loop, these rules effectively treated ISPs like utility companies by restricting broadband providers from directing users to certain websites, from blocking consumer access to websites, and from selling premium connectivity to businesses to help them offer faster services to customers.

Here is where the net neutrality issue currently stands:

Just recently, the FCC proposed the “Restoring Internet Freedom Act,” which if signed into law would prevent the FCC from being able to classify Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act, and from imposing certain regulations on them.

What’s the reason for doing this? According to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, net neutrality has cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars in lost broadband investment. It’s also led to tens of thousands of lost jobs.

Ultimately, the FCC has three major changes that it wants to enact.

First and foremost, the FCC wants to do away with Title II. The FCC also wants to empower the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to oversee issues related to competition and privacy issues. And the FCC wants to change the Internet Conduct Standard.

As of right now, it remains to be seen how the FCC will handle the “bright line” rules that restrict companies from throttling Web traffic. It’s possible that we may see the return of Internet “fast lanes” at some point in the future.

As CNET explained, broadband and wireless providers are for the proposed legislation because, if passed, it will remove the regulations that they claim stifles business. Conversely, Internet-based companies and consumer advocate groups are concerned that the proposed legislation will give broadband providers the ability to offer tiered service, to censor content and to block competition.

So, are you fired up about net neutrality? Unfortunately, there is little you can do right now but research, educate your team members and wait because we have a long road ahead here.

At the end of May, the FCC will vote to open its proposed legislation for public comment. After this period is over, official rules will be drafted and there will be another vote at the end of 2017.

At this point, CNET explains, the FCC will probably face a tough court battle from the Democrats in Congress. There is a strong possibility that this will be a massive Supreme Court case — and far from the quick resolution that businesses would like to see.

Such is the pace of change.