After voting along party lines to repeal Obama-era net neutrality regulations last December, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday made it official, announcing that the rules guaranteeing an open internet will end on June 11, 2018.
As of that date, internet service providers such as Comcast, AT&T and others will no longer be prevented from favoring certain sites over others, by blocking or slowing traffic to some sites and creating an “internet fast lane” for others.
The repeal of net neutrality will likely hit the online porn industry hard, leading to censorship by ISPs — or the creation of bundled porn site "packages" which consumers could access only by paying hefty additional fees.
On Thursday morning, Senate Democrats announced that they have filed a petition that will force a Senate floor vote that could overturn the FCC decision, a decision aggressively supported by the board’s Donald Trump-appointed Chair Ajit Pai (pictured above). All 49 Democrats in the Senate plus one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, say they plan to vote against repealing net neutrality rules, overriding the FCC board’s 3-2 vote.
With ailing Arizona Republican John McCain expected to miss the vote, the move to block net neutrality repeal would carry by a 50-49 vote. But unfortunately for open internet advocates, the vote would be largely symbolic. The Republican-controlled House appears highly unlikely to endorse any Senate move to block the FCC’s decision. And even if the House did vote along with the Senate, Trump would almost certainly veto the measure, allowing net neutrality to expire on June 11.
So what happens after June 11?
“In one dramatic scenario, internet services would begin to resemble cable-TV packages, where subscriptions could be limited to a few dozen sites and services,” according to an analysis by the technology magazine Wired. “Fortunately, that’s not a likely scenario. Instead, expect a gradual shift towards subscriptions that provide unlimited access to certain preferred providers while charging extra for everything else.”
A group of state attorneys general have filed lawsuits to stop the repeal of net neutrality. And in three states — New York, California, and Montana — state governments have passed rules prohibiting ISPs that do not adhere to net neutrality standards from receiving state contracts.
Photo by Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons