Net neutrality laws are now officially dead

The US yesterday officially scrapped regulations that forced internet service providers to treat all data that travelled over their networks equally.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 in December to repeal net neutrality laws first introduced under President Obama, which were designed to try and prevent companies giving preferential treatment to sites that paid a higher premium for traffic.

Those 2015-era rules expired on Monday.

Critics of the rules, including FCC chairman Ajit Pai, claimed they stifled innovation and made it harder for internet providers to invest in their products and provide better services to their customers.

"The agency's Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which goes into effect on June 11, 2018, will protect the open internet that consumers cherish while paving the way for better, faster, cheaper Internet access," an FCC statement released yesterday read.

"The order replaces unnecessary, heavy-handed regulations dating back to 1934 with strong consumer protections, increased transparency, and common sense regulations that will promote investment and broadband deployment."

However, many have argued that without net neutrality safeguards in place, there's nothing to stop an ISP offering greater bandwidths to websites that can afford to pay extra or hide premium content, such as video streaming services, behind paywalls.

The vote on net neutrality laws sparked widespread protests in the US, as well as a fierce backlash on social media, the consensus being among protesters that the decision would hinder free speech.

Chairman Pai has also been criticised for his past relationships with those companies that would stand to benefit most from the repeal, having formerly held the post of associate general counsel at Verizon.

It's also unlikely that net neutrality laws will disappear entirely, as a number of states are moving to enact similar protections despite the FCC ruling. Just as net neutrality rules expired, Washington introduced its own internet laws that maintain restrictions against companies attempting to block or throttle access to services, apps or devices.

California, New York, and Illinois are also said to be working on similar laws, while relaxed versions that restrict state agencies and public bodies from interacting with companies that throttle traffic will also be introduced in Oregon, Montana, New Jersey and Hawaii, according to Forbes.

14/05/2018: Net Neutrality comes to an end on 11 June

Net Neutrality will come to an end on June 11th it has been decided, as the US's communications regulator's vote to overhaul the laws surrounding data throttling comes into force.

The FCC voted 3 to 2 to end net neutrality in December and the regulator thinks by changing the way the internet providers are regulated ISPs can focus on innovation and the development of new tech to support 5G infrastructure.

"On June 11, we will have a framework in place that encourages innovation and investment in our nation's networks so that all Americans, no matter where they live, can have access to better, cheaper, and faster Internet access and the jobs, opportunities, and platform for free expression that it provides," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.

"And we will embrace a modern, forward-looking approach that will help the United States lead the world in 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity."

Although the FCC voted to repeal the legislation last year, Pai had stalled officially announcing the FCC will end net neutrality as it waited for a report by the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) agency that sets out how ISPs must communicate how they manage their networks.

This was approved by the OMB on May 2nd and the FCC has given providers until June 11th to be compliant. The repeal has also now been published on the Federal Register, a public record of proposed laws, regulations and notices of changed legislation.

"For months, many politicians and special interests have tried to mislead the American people about the Restoring Internet Freedom Order," Pai said. "Now everyone will be able to see the truth for themselves."

While the decision to repeal the act has provoked challenges from advocates of a free and open internet, Chairman Pai has also been embroiled in a number of scandals that threaten to undermine his position. Most notably an executive appointed to a government advisory panel, nominated by Pai himself, has been charged with defrauding investors out of $250 million.

Last year Pai announced the creation of a broadband deployment advisory council (BDAC), established to help the even delivery of broadband services across the US, however, following a series of resignations by its members it was claimed the council was only a vehicle for advancing the interests of telecommunications companies.

Image: Shutterstock

Dale Walker

Dale Walker is the Managing Editor of ITPro, and its sibling sites CloudPro and ChannelPro. Dale has a keen interest in IT regulations, data protection, and cyber security. He spent a number of years reporting for ITPro from numerous domestic and international events, including IBM, Red Hat, Google, and has been a regular reporter for Microsoft's various yearly showcases, including Ignite.