Last week, in a 3-2 vote, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed parts of Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is a set of regulations, created during the Obama Administration, intended to prohibit “broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or content,” according to the New York Times. The FCC classifies this type of restriction as Heavy-Handed – it will be replaced by a so-called light touch regulation. This type of regulation was in practice in the U.S. from 1996 to 2015, and required internet provider companies to give detailed reports of any service “throttling” or changes to payment structures. Silicon Valley tech companies, in the weeks prior to the decision, were unified along with many confused but furious internet consumers against the repeal attempt. Some consumers even went as far as threatening the head of the FCC, Ajit Pai, with violence against him and his family. But are these interests really aligned? The repeal of heavy restrictions on Net Neutrality would allow for internet service providers to charge these tech companies based on how much traffic their websites receive, which would lower their bottom line significantly. That is why companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Google are currently establishing lawsuits and heavily lobbying Congress to pass a law, to cement their profits.
But how does this all affect us, the consumers of the content? AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, the country’s largest internet service providers, have put out statements explaining their stances going forward. They have made sure to explicitly state that they do believe the internet should be open, and that it will stay open “today, tomorrow, and in the future,” according to a statement released by Comcast. The companies also asserted that while they stand with the repeal of Net Neutrality, they call upon Congress to put laws in place. One internet provider in Portugal called MEO allows consumers to create a custom-fit plan, which is an option American internet providers could implement. Currently, regardless of what websites or applications one may use, he/she is billed the same. Yet, with this new legislation, no tech company has come forward declaring that they will not hike up the prices on their services. So the dreaded price increase consumers are fearing may come from an unexpected source – the very tech companies they believe to be on their side.