Back in 2015, under the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established net neutrality rules to prevent service providers from blocking, throttling or favoring traffic from one source over another. Now, however, under the Trump administration FCC chairman Ajit Pai has announced plans to completely dismantle net neutrality and to allow "fast lanes" for companies willing to pay extra to get content to their customers faster.
The move effectively reverses the decision to classify broadband internet in the home in the same category as common carriers like telephone services. Moreover, the FCC order will force states to abandon any of their individual net neutrality rules, so it doesn't appear that states in the US would be able to circumvent the federal order, although the move is likely to spark legal battles between some states and the FCC.
Here is Pai's statement in full:
"For almost twenty years, the Internet thrived under the light-touch regulatory approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress. This bipartisan framework led the private sector to invest $1.5 trillion building communications networks throughout the United States. And it gave us an Internet economy that became the envy of the world.
"But in 2015, the prior FCC bowed to pressure from President Obama. On a party-line vote, it imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations upon the Internet. That decision was a mistake. It's depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation.
"Today, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades. Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that's best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.
"Additionally, as a result of my proposal, the Federal Trade Commission will once again be able to police ISPs, protect consumers, and promote competition, just as it did before 2015. Notably, my proposal will put the federal government's most experienced privacy cop, the FTC, back on the beat to protect consumers' online privacy.
"Speaking of transparency, when the prior FCC adopted President Obama's heavy-handed Internet regulations, it refused to let the American people see that plan until weeks after the FCC's vote. This time, it'll be different. Specifically, I will publicly release my proposal to restore Internet freedom tomorrow-more than three weeks before the Commission's December 14 vote.
"Working with my colleagues, I look forward to returning to the light-touch, market-based framework that unleashed the digital revolution and benefited consumers here and around the world."
When the original net neutrality rules were set, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) praised them, stating, "Great online video game experiences depend upon low latency, high bandwidth connections. We hope that the rule announced today by the FCC will promote continued development of fast online connections while protecting gamers from anti-competitive and discriminatory practices."
Telecommunications giants like Verizon have already come out in favor of the FCC move, whereas major streaming services like Netflix have opposed it. Google, too, has expressed disappointment: "The FCC's net neutrality rules are working well for consumers, and we're disappointed in the proposal released today.
We've reached out to the ESA again and will update this story once we've heard back. GamesIndustry.biz has also reached out to numerous online publishers and game companies about this critical issue for gamers and internet users in general. Stay tuned.