Now That FCC Repealed Net Neutrality Rules, What's Next?

Now that the Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to repeal its 2015 net neutrality rules, that prohibited internet service providers from blocking, slowing or discriminating against online content and services, what could happen next?

Fast and Slow Lanes? (Not right away)
The biggest concern is that the internet will become pay-to-play technology with two tiers: one that has speedy service and one that doesn't.

The high-speed lane would be occupied by big internet and media companies, and affluent households.

For everyone else, there would be the slow lane.

The brand-name internet companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Netflix, analysts say, will comfortably be able to pay the higher rent.

It will not affect their business, though it may crimp their profits.

Avoiding higher prices is one reason the major internet companies have been champions of net neutrality.

But higher prices may be prohibitive for startup companies and new voices in the media and entertainment worlds.

Will internet service providers start blocking websites? (Depends)

All of the major internet providers, including Comcast, NBC4's parent company, and Verizon, have promised not to block or throttle access to any legal website.

Even though under the new FCC policy they could do so in theory, ISPs would take a tremendous public relations hit if they acted immediately to reverse those promises.

What's more likely is that over time, the providers will look for ways to squeeze more money out of major websites like Netflix or Google, requiring payments to avoid a slowdown to reach users, for example.

Under the new policy, the only real check on ISP blocking or slowing is antitrust law enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

Will you have to pay more? (Look for the increase in fees)

One of the major charges by net neutrality supporters during the debate was that ISPs could start segregating different kinds of websites or apps into different packages, requiring additional fees, kind of like cable TV bundles and add-ons.

A viral tweet purported to show that kind of scheme in action in Portugal, with additional fees charged for packages to use streaming music, video and social networking apps.

Will there be tighter monthly data usage caps? (Maybe)

One of the things that the Obama-era FCC concluded under the 2015 rules was that ISPs could not discriminate by allowing customers to use ISP-owned apps without regard to data limits.

It was a practice known as zero rating.

The current FCC chairman was a critic of that decision and wanted ISPs to be able to use zero rating as they desired.

But to do so, they’ll need to impose and enforce data caps.

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