Net neutrality rules officially repealed in the United States

Democrats mark change by urging support for their effort to overrule the Federal Communications Commission

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
Monday 11 June 2018 20:00 BST
The FCC's Restoring Internet Freedom Order

Rules barring American internet service providers from treating online traffic differently have officially been lifted.

Six months after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal an Obama-era policy known as net neutrality, setting off a massive consumer backlash and warnings about a segregated internet, the changes formally took effect.

Providers will now have the ability to potentially slow down certain websites and apps or charge more to rivals, although major corporations that favoured the repeal effort have insisted customers’ experiences will not change.

In an op-ed published in the technology publication CNET, FCC chairman Ajit Pai said he championed the repeal to “protect consumers and promote better, faster internet access and more competition”, noting the internet had flourished without net neutrality rules and arguing the rules disadvantaged small internet service providers and rural customers.

“At the dawn of the commercial internet, President Clinton and a Republican Congress agreed on a light-touch framework to regulating the internet. Under that approach, the internet was open and free. Network investment topped $1.5 trillion. Netflix, Facebook, Amazon, and Google went from small startups to global tech giants. America's internet economy became the envy in the world”, Mr Pai wrote.

Even if consumers do not see immediate changes, the official dissolution of net neutrality spurred calls to reinstate the protections from Democrats who have been pushing to reverse the FCC.

A petition that would allow Congress to overrule the FCC and re-enshrine net neutrality passed the Senate last month after it garnered the handful of Republican votes needed to advance.

The measure faces tougher prospects in the House of Representatives and appears unlikely to win over Donald Trump, who has backed the net neutrality repeal and elevated Mr Pai to his leadership position.

But Democrats who see a winning issue likely to galvanise young voters continued to urge a change.

Net Neutrality: Ajit Pai and FCC scraps online regulation changing how the internet works

“#NetNeutrality protections end today because House Republicans refused to act”, Rep Adam Schiff of California said on Twitter. “Congress still has the power to restore a free and open Internet for all”.

A number of state attorneys general have challenged the FCC decision in court and numerous state legislatures have introduced bills to mandate internet traffic is treated equally.

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