The internet as we know it today could soon be changing. You’ve probably noticed over social media lately the talk about net neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission will vote next month on whether or not to lift regulations regarding the internet.
Net neutrality was a principle passed by the FCC in 2015 during the Obama administration. It seeks to provide free and open access to the internet; it ensures websites and services all have the same access to consumers.
“Internet service providers must treat data and services on the internet equally in terms of access,” Shad Jesson with the Office of Information Technology at Boise State University said.
Although, it could soon be changing. FCC commissioner Ajit Pai announced a plan he says will put an end to the federal government’s “micromanaging of the internet.”
“I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades,” Pai said in a statement.
The lifted regulations would allow internet service providers the ability to prioritize and allow faster access to some sites over others.
“For example, Verizon now owns Yahoo. So conceivably Verizon could put Yahoo front and center as the search engines, the main gateway to internet service. Perhaps it would be more difficult for you to get to Google,” Jesson said. “Perhaps they may charge you to purchase a tier to get to other search services or other services offered by Google, Facebook, and Apple. Competitors of Verizon."
Internet providers could also charge companies like Google, Apple, or Amazon to have priority access to their internet subscribers.
The proposal would also allow internet service providers to bundle websites together and charge subscribers more money for access to certain sites and services, much like what we see with TV providers and certain channels.
“A provider could charge you more money than you're paying today to access Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, high-bandwidth streaming services, but it's also possible that they could charge you less than you're paying today if all you're doing is checking email and going to Google once in a while,” Jesson said.
Arguments in favor of the new regulations say it helps foster innovation and spark competition.
“Additionally, as a result of my proposal, the Federal Trade Commission will once again be able to police ISPs, protect consumers, and promote competition,” Pai said in a statement.
The new regulations would require providers to disclose to subscribers if they’re blocking, slowing down, or prioritizing sites.
“We don't yet know what they're going to do. All we know is these rules will give them much more freedom to make decisions about how you access the internet compared to how you do that today,” Jesson said.