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US net neutrality rules expire, court battle looms

12 June 2018

The repeal of net neutrality takes the regulation of the internet from the government's hands and places it into the hands of internet providers.

The Federal Communications Commission has officially lifted Obama-era internet protections known as net neutrality, leading to a potential change in how fast apps, websites and online services load depending on internet service providers (ISP.) The change comes six months after the FCC voted to undo the rules.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said last week the rollback will ensure more investment by providers and will ensure "better, faster, and cheaper Internet access and more broadband competition to the American people". It also meant that companies could not give preferential treatment to their own content; for example, Comcast, which owns NBC, could not treat the content from NBC more favourably than that of a competitor. Deregulation could potentially change what you can access on the internet. Here's what we can expect from tomorrow's internet. Under the old policy, any blocking or slowing of websites would directly run afoul of the rules, inviting immediate enforcement. "One of the things they said about the Internet in general is it levels the playing field".

"Congress can still overrule the FCC and restore net neutrality", said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight For the Future, which as advocated for strong net neutrality rules.

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However, while Pai has focused on how the new rules require ISPs to be transparent "about their network management practices", he hasn't touched on some of the most criticized aspects of the repeal: the ability to throttle, prioritize, or block content and internet access.

Under the new rules, the Federal Trade Commission will be the agency to handle complaints about broadband privacy and unfair or deceptive business practices by ISPs.

Ultimately, the FCC said these lawsuits and executive orders will not stop the repeal of the rules.

Meanwhile, even before the end of the net-neutrality rules, several broadband providers, including AT&T and Verizon, were experimenting with so-called zero-rating programs.

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But here are a few tactics that have been tried before that have drawn scrutiny under the old net neutrality rules. Almost two dozen states and several companies have sued the government to try and preserve the rules.

Last month, the Senate passed a measure to preserve the net neutrality rules.

"The idea is that the ISPs will eventually have more money to invest back into services for consumers", said Portney, though he says he doesn't think that will happen soon.

OR also enacted a net neutrality law, signed in April and that goes into action in 2019, but it only restricts state agencies and other public bodies from contracting with network providers that don't meet non-discriminatory provisions.

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US net neutrality rules expire, court battle looms