Net Neutrality Is Now History, But We Can Reclaim It

Look for Changes - and Not for the Better - in Your Online Experience

The changes are likely to be gradual. Comcast, Verizon and the other major internet providers that almost surely will be making them hope you won’t notice. But unless Congress or the courts intervene, in a few weeks or perhaps months your daily experience online will be changing – and unfortunately not for the better.

Alterations approved months ago to the Federal Communications Commission’s “net neutrality” rules take effect today. They give internet companies permission to play favorites among websites, moving content from some at higher speeds and slowing down or even blocking others entirely.

The new rules are bad news for our democracy. In just a few years, the internet has become something of a national and international town hall meeting. Net neutrality guaranteed that the forum would be open to everyone; with its demise, internet providers are free to slap surcharges on websites that generate content they don’t like and/or slow down the way that content makes its way to your computer or mobile device.

“Monopoly phone and cable companies will undoubtedly seek to maximize profits by favoring their own content over their competitors and creating fast lanes and slow lanes ultimately at the expense of consumers,” said former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, now special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative.

“At a time when access to a free and open internet is so vital to our democracy, the official repeal opens the door to the ‘cableization’ of the internet – where your provider can control where you go, what you see, and what you do online,” Copps added.

“But the fight to restore the FCC’s net neutrality rules is far from over,” he said. “Common Cause and its allies are working on all fronts to reverse the FCC’s disastrous repeal, including state legislation and the Congressional Review Act. An overwhelming majority of Americans have made it loud and clear that they want the net neutrality rules. Now is the time for our lawmakers to listen to their constituents and take action to quickly restore the rules.”

More than 20 million people called, emailed, wrote, or petitioned the FCC and/or Congress to hold on to the old rules, which were approved during the Obama administration. They required that all web content be treated equally.

The U.S. Senate apparently heard those pleas and voted 52-47 last month to reverse the FCC and retain the net neutrality protections. But action under the Congressional Review Act also requires approval in the House, where Republican leaders have shown zero interest in bringing the issue up for a vote.

Additional court challenges to the FCC action also are underway and legislatures in several states have adopted net neutrality protections of their own.