So, What’s Going on with Net Neutrality these Days?

Hannah Howard, Reporter

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It’s been a hot minute since net neutrality was big news, so let’s review. In February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission passed a regulation to keep internet providers from discriminating against how the internet is used. This meant service providers couldn’t charge extra for faster downloading speeds and access to popular sites such as YouTube. In June, 2016 the U.S. Appeals Court upheld this regulation.

Then, in November 2016 Donald Trump, an opponent of the 2015 regulation, was elected president. He appointed Ajit Pai, a former FCC commissioner to replace Tom Wheeler as Chairman. In April 2017, Pai announced his plan to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules. In a statement he called the regulations a “mistake,” and said, “Not only was there no problem, this ‘solution’ hasn’t worked. The main complaint consumers have about the Internet is not and has never been that their Internet service provider is blocking access to content.” Pai’s proposal, “Restoring Internet Freedom,” removed the guarantee of service providers being unable to block or charge customers access to Internet content. Rather, the regulation proposal gave service providers free reign to do those things. Despite massive outcry from the public, the FCC voted to pass Pai’s regulation on December 14, 2017, and on June 11, 2018, those new rules took effect.

Net Neutrality

What’s been happening since then? In September of this year, California’s now-former governor Jerry Brown signed a state net neutrality law that mimicked the FCC’s 2015 regulations, and expanded it by outlawing “zero-rating,” which is the practice of providing free Internet with access to only certain sites, or providing it with copious amounts of advertising. Soon after the passing of the law, the U.S. Justice Department took federal action to block it. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in addition to the action, “Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce – the federal government does. Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy.” However, this may be false. According to some, including Stanford professor, Barbara van Schewick, by passing the new regulations the FCC gave up their power to regulate Internet service providers. This removal of control also removed their ability to police what the states do in regards to net neutrality protections.

It may take years to unmask the real effects of the new rules, and years to decipher what the states can and cannot do about them. However, with the Democrats taking the House in the November midterm elections and the president’s seat up for grabs in 2020, things may change once again for net neutrality.

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So, What’s Going on with Net Neutrality these Days?