The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) is set to kill net neutrality on Thursday in what looks to be a partisan affair that will permanently alter how people access and interact with the internet.
Ajit Pai, the current Commissioner of the FCC appointed by President Trump, has proposed reclassifying Internet providers as information companies rather than utilities. Baring a last minute change-of-heart by one of the voting commissioners, net neutrality will be repealed and internet providers will be able to control public access to any website, and the speed at which service is delivered.
Net neutrality was originally established by the Obama administration in 2015 to regulate Internet companies as a utility.
For the last two years, broadband providers have been classified as Title II or “common carriers,” meaning that all websites were accessible to all of their customers with the same level of service and speed. If net neutrality is repealed at the Thursday vote, broadband internet companies would be recategorized as a Title I information services. This would allow the companies to slow traffic from any websites they choose, while allowing other sites to move faster if they, or their customers, pay more.
Pai believes that the billions in annual revenue already collected by internet providers has stifled growth and technological development. His hope is that if they can generate billions more in additional profit, providers will create so much profit that it will “trickle down” into better service and cheaper prices for customers.
But before that theory can be put to the test (again), Industry and public interest groups, including Common Cause and Free Press, are preparing a barrage of lawsuits to challenge the reclassification.
And while the prospect of a protracted legal battle rarely inspires confidence that people can defeat corporations and their armies of high-priced attorneys, internet broadband providers unsuccessfully sued the FCC in 2016 over net neutrality protections, so legal precedent offers some hope for the fight planned after Thursday’s vote.