Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Markets | By Erika Turner

US net neutrality rules expire, court battle looms

US net neutrality rules expire, court battle looms

The net neutrality rules are no longer the law of the land.

Supporters of net neutrality say killing the protections lets ISPs charge more and limit online access. That means there is nothing legally stopping a broadband provider from selling faster service at a premium or slowing some content.

A number of states have tried to get around the FCC's repeal by either developing legislation laying out their own net neutrality rules, or by issuing gubernatorial executive orders that limit which Internet providers can do business with the state.

Last month, FCC chairman Ajit Pai said the retraction of net neutrality rules was needed to remove needless and onerous regulations.

"Now, on June 11, these unnecessary and harmful internet regulations will be repealed and the bipartisan, light-touch approach that served the online world well for almost 20 years will be restored", Pai said in a statement last month. Supporters of net neutrality have also said that without regulation, a greater socio-economic digital divide could develop, creating a class of information "haves" and "have nots".

Two states, OR and Washington, have passed net neutrality laws and 29 states are considering legislation, which could lead to new legal battles over Internet laws.

Organizations that fought to preserve net neutrality say the battle isn't over. Under Pai's model, the FCC has been gutted of most of its authority over broadband providers, ceding any remaining authority to an FTC legal experts repeatedly say lacks the ability to actually take any meaningful action.

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Net neutrality was repealed past year under an order called the "Restoring Internet Freedom" order.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat who voted against the repeal, said Monday that the decision put the FCC "on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public".

In essence, the rules attempted to ensure a level playing field so that ISPs wouldn't favor their own services (in particular streaming video) over those by third parties by throttling and charging extra for certain traffic. "That may be true next week, but over time I suspect they will start violating". State officials, members of Congress, technology companies and various advocacy groups are still pushing to save the rules through legislation and litigation. "Americans in every state and across the political spectrum support rules that ban ISPs from blocking, throttling, and prioritizing web traffic". In his view, removing the rule will open the floodgates to corporate investment, ultimately providing faster and more widespread internet access.

As you surf the internet, you might not notice anything different. The Republican-led House, and President Trump, are both thought to be unlikely to back the Senate's measure.

DOJ lawyers have argued that AT&T's deal would lead to higher prices for consumers, especially if the combined company withheld popular channels, like CNN or TNT, until other cable providers paid higher rates to carry them.

More than 20 states have filed a lawsuit to stop the net neutrality repeal.

Tech companies such as Netflix, Spotify and Snap echoed similar concerns in regulatory filings.

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