On January 4, 2018 the Federal Communications Commission under the leadership of Trump appointee Ajit Pai implemented the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order”. This order reversed the net neutrality rules that were codified in 2015 under the stewardship of the Obama Administration in the “Open Internet Order”. This protocol formally identified rules that the internet had operated on for 20 years with bipartisan support. The 2015 rules effectively classified Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as Title II Services – Common Carriers similar to phone companies and obligating them to provide their services without hindrance, preference or favor. The repeal reversed 20 years of evolving internet policy.
Advocates of a free and open internet have long argued that the service was an essential utility similar to phone or mail service and providers should be closely regulated to ensure that content was available without interference or preferential treatment. This policy was anathema to large ISPs like Verizon and AT&T who envisaged creating streaming services of their own. It would only be logical that they would want to create an environment where their services were more attractive to consumers than established services like Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu or emerging services like Disney or CBS All-Access.
The change in policy has also allowed ISPs to gradually change the rate structure that it applies to consumers; changing the meaning of “unlimited access” to define different speeds to different consumers depending on the types of content they up or download.
What we are seeing, as the repeal quickly takes effect, is an internet that is starting to resemble the cable TV universe. A landscape where consumers need to choose upfront the types of internet services they require. Unlike cable, the internet has become an essential tool to everyday existence – job search, school homework assignments, public information and health care. The internet as originally envisioned was a place where everyone could have a voice and that new ideas and technologies would not be hindered by the delivery medium.
- Public Knowledge promotes freedom of expression, an open internet, and access to affordable communications tools and creative works. We work to shape policy on behalf of the public interest.
- The Internet Society The Internet Society was founded in 1992 by a number of people involved with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to provide an organizational home for and financial support for the Internet standards process.
- FCC – Announcement of “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” January 4, 2018
- Free Press closely watches decisions shaping the media landscape and sounds the alarm when people’s rights to connect and communicate are in danger.
Photo by Markus Spiske