Net neutrality was a Federal Communications Commission (or FCC) regulation that ensured all internet traffic would be treated equally. This meant you could check your email, stream movies on Netflix, or shop on Amazon – and your internet service provider would treat all of your web traffic in an equal and unbiased manner. It also meant companies such as AT&T, which recently purchased Time Warner, couldn’t favor their own content over a competitor’s. They were delivering all web traffic, and with equal data transmission speeds. The net neutrality directives were originally designed to protect internet users from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization, but those regulations were all repealed on June 11, 2018.
Net neutrality regulations were meant to support our constantly changing internet services, by protecting the end user. Under these regulations, broadband internet service was considered a utility which gave the FCC some power over internet service providers and their business practices. The net neutrality rules prohibited the practice of blocking, meaning that internet service providers could not discriminate against lawful content by blocking websites or applications (illegal content was obviously an exception). They also prohibited throttling, which meant internet service providers couldn’t slow the transmission of legal data based on the nature of the content. Furthermore, the FCC regulations protected internet users from paid prioritization – meaning their service providers couldn’t have a “fast lane” for customers who paid premiums, and a “slow lane” for those who didn’t.
Without blocking regulations, internet service providers can now give preference to specific websites, or even block other websites from their internet customers altogether – if they so choose to do so. With the repeal, internet providers are now technically within their rights to practice throttling, or slowing down the transmission of selected website data. Theoretically, AT&T could choose to primarily transmit their newly acquired Time Warner assets which includes HBO, Warner Brothers, CNN, TNT, and TBS networks, and slow down websites and content that belong to other networks.
Since paid prioritization is no longer prohibited, internet service providers could now charge customers differently for their connections, based on their internet usage. Imagine having to pay more for a “social media” package from your internet company, just to access your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. With net neutrality gone, internet companies could lock specific content and force their customers to pay extra for the right to access. Hopefully internet service providers will continue to provide their customers with reliable and affordable internet access, even without FCC regulations in place.