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Cybersecurity & Standards, Open Internet

What Unraveling Net Neutrality Will Mean for Internet Users – Part I

Last week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released his plan to repeal net neutrality protections for internet users and internet-based companies. CDT quickly expressed its disappointment and concern about his proposed rulemaking, noting that the plan will “clearly advantage large internet service providers at the expense of the internet users who deserve unfettered, equitable access to the full range of internet services.”

The response from members of the technology community illustrates the stark divide in the policy debate between those who use and rely upon the internet and those who provide access to it. Mozilla denounced the repeal as “saddening, maddening, and unacceptable.” More than 800 startups and entrepreneurs signed onto a letter to Chairman Pai explaining that the loss of these protections would severely stifle innovation and economic growth. Meanwhile, some ISPs praised the proposed rulemaking, arguing that the previous safeguards were based on “an outdated regulatory regime” that “harms investment and innovation” and were not “at all necessary to guarantee consumers an Open Internet.”

At first glance, it doesn’t appear that the two sides are talking about the same policy proposal. But this gap in perception can be explained by the dramatically different effects that the repeal will have on internet users and internet service providers (ISPs). Internet-based companies (also known as “edge providers”) and users view the net neutrality rules outlined in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order (OIO) as a set of fundamental protections to ensure that ISPs do not leverage their monopoly of the marketplace to slow down or block content and gouge consumers and companies for added fees. In contrast, ISPs claim that net neutrality protections are burdensome regulations that constrain their profit margins and disincentivize further investment in infrastructure.

With this in mind, we hope to provide some clarity and context to frame the debate. Over the next two weeks, CDT will analyze the components of the proposed rulemaking (known as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or NPRM) in a series of posts leading up to the FCC Open Meeting to discuss the repeal on May 18. We will explain the effects of the roll back on internet-based companies, ISPs, and internet users. In doing so, we hope that we will help our readers better understand the consequences of repealing of net neutrality protections.

We hope you find the series informative and welcome your support in helping defend a vibrant, open internet.