What Are The New Net Neutrality Rules? The Restoring Internet Freedom Order Just Took Effect
Net neutrality as you know it is over. On Monday, the Restoring Internet Freedom Order went into effect under Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who was appointed by President Trump. The net neutrality regulations were put in place in the Obama era, and they ensured both that companies couldn't pay off an internet service provider (ISP) to load their site faster and that ISPs couldn't "throttle" legal data and content, according to NPR.
The Restoring Internet Freedom order changes this. ISPs are allowed to throttle or block content under the new rules, according to NPR. And companies now may pay providers to prioritize their sites or content — as long as that payment is disclosed to consumers. The specifics of how these policies affect individual consumers depends on each consumer's ISP and where they live.
Net neutrality rules were approved by a 3-2 vote in 2015, then repealed in December, when the FCC voted along party lines to roll them back. Pai branded the net neutrality rules as too restrictive.
While activists and lawmakers have repeatedly brought up the slowing down of the internet in their work to stop the repeal of net neutrality, an analysis by The Washington Post says the changes are likely to be much more "subtle." The changes mean that ISPs will be able to "experiment with business models we haven't seen before," the newspaper continues.
In a YouTube video announcing the new order, Pai quickly details why and how he thinks the order will fit into the history of the internet. Pai even used the favorite phrase of conservative lawmakers and bureaucrats: free market. "All of us believe in a free and open internet. The internet is the greatest free market invention in history," Pai noted.
But Pai notes that the Clinton administration chose not to regulate the internet at its inception, and that this was the right move. The FCC under his chairmanship is going back to that era, he continued.
The first step toward the era of deregulation is repealing the Obama-era rules. "The 2015 decision to impose these heavy-handed, utility-style regulations on the internet was a mistake. For one thing, the internet wasn't broken in 2015," Pai said in the video, without any apparent hint of irony. "These rules were a solution in search of a problem."
Pai also attempted to cut off his detractors. "Under this rule, every internet service provider must clearly disclose its network practices up front to consumers," Pai said.
It remains to be seen if critics of net neutrality repeal will be swayed by the implementation of this new order. In fact, 21 states, Washington, D.C., and several other organizations have sued the FCC over the deregulation of net neutrality, according to The Washington Post. Furthermore, six governors have signed executive orders making it illegal for ISPs operating in their states to not follow the 2015 regulations, according to The Verge.
One of the most vocal and active critics of the repeal is Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey. In February, Markey introduced legislation to reestablish the net neutrality rules.
According to The Verge, Markey then submitted a discharge petition under the Congressional Review Act alongside 32 other Democrats in early May to force a vote. That vote was successful on May 16 with 52 votes in favor of repeal, according to CNN.
The bill is now languishing in the House of Representatives under Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. All 49 Senate Democrats signed a letter sent to Ryan on Thursday, urging him to hold a vote on the bill, according to The Hill.