When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal the policies associated with net neutrality – rules governing how internet service providers (ISPs) must handle web traffic – many people and companies feared how the change would affect their online experience. While ISPs now have more options regarding how traffic is managed, the tenants of net neutrality aren’t necessarily gone forever. Here’s what you need to know.
Are Changes Coming?
The repeal of net neutrality means that one significant change has already occurred, as the rules by which ISPs have to adhere have fundamentally been altered. But, the exact nature of how internet service will change isn’t immediately known, as it will take time for any supplier to adjust their operating procedures should they decide to take advantage of the shift.
For example, an ISP could begin favoring traffic associated with their own content now (which was prohibited under the net neutrality regulations), but the mechanisms that would need to be updated to do so aren’t necessarily in place yet, depending on the ISP involved.
Additionally, there are some legal challenges to the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality, which will take time to resolve, and new legislation is also in the works that, if passed, could restore some of the tenants of net neutrality, possibly before any ISP has an opportunity to change how they operate.
Will Every ISP Abandon Net Neutrality?
Not every internet provider is going to take full advantage of the rule changes associated with the repeal of net neutrality. Some companies may shift their offerings based on some of the additional freedoms, but others might not.
Large ISPs, like Comcast, have dropped hints that they might offer “fast lanes,” arrangements where companies can gain better access to the network in exchange for a fee, but essentially every provider has stated that they do not intend to block lawful traffic or throttle traffic to specific sites. And, if an ISP makes this commitment in their terms of service, failing to live up to their promises could result in legal action, enforceable by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). However, that doesn’t mean that users might not experience some speed differences, with sites that have paid for a fast lane loading more quickly than their counterparts who chose not to, or cannot afford, the required fee.
But not every ISP plans on making changes. In fact, some smaller, regional providers have openly stated that they intend to follow the rules of net neutrality, even if they aren’t legally obligated to do so. Additionally, new legislation has been proposed that would restore some of the tenants, though it is too early to say if these will pass.
Ultimately, it is too early to tell for certain if the concepts behind net neutrality will disappear, and some actions, like new legislation or successful legal challenges, could leave much of the original rules intact. However, even if the changes do go forward in entirety, not every ISP is going to alter how they operate, allowing individuals and businesses to switch their services to another provider if their current ISP no longer meets their needs.
If you are interested in learning more, the professionals at The Armada Group can help. Contact us to speak with a member of our knowledgeable staff today.