As of June 11th, the legal protections against content discrimination on the internet are gone. As far as the FCC is concerned, net neutrality is dead.
The policy’s fate was sealed back in December 2017, when FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order was approved in a 3-2 vote along party lines. Pai’s order, which goes into effect today, rolls back the net neutrality protections that were put in place by former chairman Tom Wheeler. They promise — in name, at least — unrestricted access to online content minus the burden of regulation. But in fact, the new ruling clears the way for massive internet service providers to do practically whatever they like — including paid prioritization, throttling, and otherwise messing with traffic as it moves across the internet. It will take a long time to see the practical effects of the new rules, but make no mistake: this is a big deal, and it’s the first step in a long, slow process that will reshape the internet in very ugly ways.
What Just Changed?
At its core, net neutrality means that all online traffic is treated equally. The rules put in place by Wheeler’s 2015 Open Internet Order prevented internet providers from throttling or blocking traffic or offering paid fast lanes. This was done by classifying providers as Title II carriers under the Telecommunications Act of 1934 (and 1996). As long as Wheeler’s classification was in place, it provided a strong legal backing for treating the internet…